Caleb Windsor celebrates a goal during Melbourne's clash against Richmond in round seven, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

CALEB Windsor's finally earned a Rising Star nomination, and the young winger is at the forefront of the changing face of Melbourne.

The Demons are fielding a vastly different team to the one which went out in straight sets last year.

Five players in Saturday night's side which defeated the ladder-leading Geelong have featured in 10 or fewer matches – Taj Woewodin (10), Blake Howes, Bailey Laurie and Windsor (all eight), and five-gamer Daniel Turner.

Spearhead Jacob van Rooyen feels like he's been around for years, but still only has 28 games under his belt, while Judd McVee has been a near-permanent feature in defence for the past two seasons, playing 33 games.

Round eight team v semi-final 2023 team

IN: Harry Petty (foot), Jacob van Rooyen (suspended), Jack Billings (St Kilda), Blake Howes (hand/VFL), Bailey Laurie, Daniel Turner, Taj Woewodin (all VFL), Caleb Windsor (u18s)

OUT: Jake Bowey (collarbone), Christian Salem (hamstring), Charlie Spargo (Achilles), James Jordon (Sydney), Joel Smith (suspended), Lachie Hunter, Josh Schache, Adam Tomlinson (all VFL)


For comparison, Sydney (first on the ladder) and the Cats fielded two players each with less than 50 games' experience, while third-placed Greater Western Sydney had eight.

Windsor credited the club's "David Neitz Academy" – started in 2017 for first and second-year players, and currently run by Mark "Choco" Williams – as helping fast-track the young Demons, assisting a mini-rebuild on the run.

"He's been great for us, he helps us a lot with even things like media training, financial stuff, off-field things as well," Windsor told

"We sit down every week, every Tuesday, and it's always a different topic. Like I said, it could be media training, or how to clip our games so we can go to coaches and show them our own vision for feedback.

"For the media training, he made us do a fake interview and showed them in front of the group, which was kind of different, I've never done something like that before."

Caleb Windsor handballs during Melbourne's clash against Geelong in round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Wearing the No.6 guernsey means Windsor sits between Christian Petracca and Jack Viney in the locker-room, providing a perfect opportunity to pick the brains of two of the strongest midfielders in the League.

He was selected with pick No.7, and far from a top-10 pick going to a struggling club, he's landed on his feet at Melbourne, who scooped up Fremantle's first-rounder as part of the 2022 Luke Jackson deal.

Caleb Windsor with David Neitz after being selected by Melbourne with the No.7 pick in the 2023 AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's pretty cool to be a part of, we've got a lot of great mentors. Obviously, I work closely with the midfielders like Christian Petracca and Ed Langdon, on the wing," Windsor said. 

"Us younger boys are also helping each other, which is good.

"I got pretty lucky, and everything's gone pretty quick since the draft. We've had a good start to the season as a team.

"My speed has always been one of my strengths, so every game I try to keep improving on it. At the start (first game), the running was pretty intense, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it. Second game came around, and it was weird, I got used to it straight away."


Windsor had 18 disposals, six marks and six tackles against the ladder-leading Geelong, kicking a key goal with 10 minutes remaining to help sew up the win.

He wasn't even fazed when star forward Jeremy Cameron stood next to him on the wing at the first centre bounce, suspecting the Cats were going to throw the wildcard his way.

So good was his game, he was recognised by the broadcaster with a new television for his efforts, which was very timely for the Windsor family home in Ferntree Gully.

"I've been getting into golf recently, and I've been practicing in the lounge room, and I was trying to [hit a ball] into a cupholder in the couch, and it didn't come off that well," Windsor said.

"I hit the tv and completely smashed it, so it wasn't very fun, but I think this makes up for it now.

"Mum just said, 'awesome, this is going in the living room straight away', she was a lot happier than when I smashed it."

Caleb Windsor's mum Margarita looks on after he was selected by Melbourne with the No.7 pick in the 2023 AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

2024 Rising Star nominees

OR: Matt Roberts (Sydney)
R1: Ollie Dempsey (Geelong)
R2: George Wardlaw (North Melbourne)
R3: Harvey Gallagher (Western Bulldogs)
R4: Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs)
R5: Harley Reid (West Coast)
R6: Darcy Wilson (St Kilda)
R7: Jake Rogers (Gold Coast)
R8: Caleb Windsor (Melbourne)