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Dons' top draftee named Rising Star winner

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Rising Star winner Andrew McGrath with the Ron Evans Medal  - AFL,Rising Star,Andrew McGrath,Essendon Bombers
Rising Star winner Andrew McGrath with the Ron Evans Medal

YOUNG Essendon star Andrew McGrath says he is keen to write his own story in the game after joining a decorated list of players to be crowned the NAB AFL Rising Star.

McGrath became the third No.1 pick in 24 years to win the award, joining Brett Deledio (2005) and Nick Riewoldt (2002), and just the second Essendon player, alongside Dyson Heppell (2011).

The polished 19-year-old polled 51 votes to win from Hawthorn defender Ryan Burton (41 votes), with Port Adelaide midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper (35) and Carlton key forward Charlie Curnow (27) following.

McGrath was awarded the maximum five votes by nine of the 11 judges, accepting the prestigious Ron Evans Medal from last year's winner Callum Mills at Friday's award lunch in Melbourne.

The young Bomber was surprised to pip Burton, who had been the favourite, but he was excited about what was ahead for him after a magnificent debut season that will continue into September.

"Everyone has their own story and all the Rising Star winners have their own story, but I'm keen to write my own one and wherever that takes me it takes me I guess," McGrath said after being awarded the Ron Evans Medal.

"I'll strive to be the best player I can be and that's all you can control. You can't look at how good all the players are before me, but I'll do my best to be the best player I can and wherever that leaves me it leaves me."


McGrath, who was born in Canada and was a top junior athlete before focusing on pursuing an AFL career, played 20 games in 2017 and averaged 19.6 possessions.

He started the year in lockdown roles before growing in confidence and adding more attack to his game.

The Sandringham Dragons recruit said he had been disappointed in his early performances through the pre-season and early rounds, and his year had not exceeded his own expectations.

"I was obviously nervous in my first couple of games as a player, as everyone is," he said.

"My main focus was to shut down my opponent more so than run off and attack, (but) then as I gained a bit more confidence my coaches urged me to back myself in.

"I'm usually pretty hard on myself as a person … I just wanted to get in and get in straight away.

"That probably stressed me out a little bit early and probably prolonged the process of me getting in and playing the way I wanted to.

"But once you start playing consistent football and the coaching staff has trust in you, you can break the barrier and go to the next level."

While the offensive side of his game has grown, McGrath's standout game this year was a lockdown role on Adelaide superstar Eddie Betts in round 21, keeping his man goalless.

"To have a role on such a dangerous small forward who went on to be an All Australian and has been for many years prior, that was probably for me my biggest moment of the year," McGrath said. 


Burton did not receive the five votes from any of the judges, with Powell-Pepper given maximum votes by two.

This year's voting panel was made up of Gillon McLachlan, Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Andrew Dillon, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Chris Johnson, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson, Warren Tredrea and AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan.

Full Rising Star leaderboard
Andrew McGrath (Essendon) 51
Ryan Burton (Hawthorn) 41
Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide) 35
Charlie Curnow (Carlton) 27
Eric Hipwood (Brisbane Lions) 6
Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton) 3
Lewis Melican (Sydney) 1
Tom Phillips (Collingwood) 1