Harley Reid and Sam Darcy. Pictures: AFL Photos

THE AFL's Rising Star race has been thrown into chaos.

Harley Reid and Sam Darcy, the award's two overwhelming favourites, were both suspended last week and have subsequently joined a small list of players to be ruled ineligible to claim the Rising Star later this year.

Dustin Martin, Toby Greene, Jason Horne-Francis, James Sicily, Corey McKernan, Andrew Embley and Jarrad Waite are among the group to have been suspended while nominated for the Rising Star, ruling them out of the running.

Under the AFL's rules, voters will no longer have the ability to vote for either Reid or Darcy, meaning they won't face situations similar to McKernan in 1996 or Chris Grant in 1997 when both won the Brownlow Medal while ineligible.

To be eligible, players must also be under 21 years of age as of January 1, 2024 and have played no more than 10 AFL games before the start of this season.

So, who claims the Rising Star now? Well, the race is suddenly wide open.


North Melbourne's tenacious midfielder George Wardlaw is likely to move into favouritism. According to Champion Data, he now leads all eligible Rising Star hopefuls for both AFL Player Ratings points (12.6 per game) and ranking points (80.9).

If Wardlaw were to win, it would make it consecutive Kangas to claim the award after Harry Sheezel won last year. They would be the first side to win back-to-back Rising Star awards since Justin Koschitzke and Nick Riewoldt at St Kilda in 2001-02.

Saints winger Darcy Wilson and Melbourne's top-10 pick Caleb Windsor are also expected to move into the thoughts of voters, but a couple of smokies could be sliding under the radar.

Darcy Wilson celebrates a goal for St Kilda against North Melbourne in R8, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Geelong's Ollie Dempsey is one to watch. The high-flyer has already earned a nomination, while he has racked up 10 goals and 12 goal assists from 12 games and leads all eligible players for score involvements this year.

According to Champion Data stats, the 21-year-old Dempsey also ranks third for AFL Player Ratings points (9.5 per game) and sixth for ranking points (69.7) through the first half of the year.

But his Cats teammate Toby Conway is another to consider. The 21-year-old ruck has only played five games this season – and is yet to earn a Rising Star nomination – but will be among a group to put his hand up, should he retain his place in the side.

Champion Data notes that Conway ranks second behind Wardlaw for both AFL Player Ratings points (10.4 per game) and ranking points (79.6) this year, highlighting his influence in Geelong's 8-4 start.

Colby McKercher handballs under pressure during round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

North Melbourne's Colby McKercher has averaged 20.7 disposals to be the leading ball-winner and would otherwise be among the favourites, but a return date remains unknown after being sidelined with a foot injury in recent weeks.

Brisbane's Kai Lohmann is the leading goalkicker, Adelaide's Luke Nankervis is the highest marker, Richmond's Tom Brown is the best interceptor, while Gold Coast's Will Graham is the hardest tackler.

But picking a winner is a hard task, one made all the more difficult after last weekend.


George Wardlaw*


Toby Conway


Ollie Dempsey*


Logan Morris


Will Graham


Tom Brown



George Wardlaw*


Toby Conway


Colby McKercher*


Matt Roberts*


Darcy Wilson*


Ollie Dempsey*


* Already nominated for the Rising Star