SYDNEY Swans defender Callum Mills has won the NAB AFL Rising Star award, becoming the first academy player from any club to take out the title.
He is also the first New South Wales-born player to win the Ron Evans Medal, which he received in a presentation at Crown Palladium on Tuesday.
2016 NAB AFL Rising Star winner Callum Mills with his girlfriend Tiffany Browne
Mills finished with 49 votes, which meant he received maximum scores from all but one member of the voting panel, Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling, who gave his top vote to Caleb Daniel.
Western Bulldogs midfielder Daniel finished second with 41 votes after a season that saw him line up in all but two matches.
Carlton defender Jacob Weitering was third on 26 votes.
Mills used to play rugby union but began playing AFL when he was 13, with one aspect in particular drawing him to the sport.
"The 360 dimension of the game, it's so different every game. It's exciting, it's fast and there's so many more skills that you can use," Mills said upon taking out the award
"In rugby, I used to kick the ball too much so my coach used to get angry, so I thought AFL was the game for me."
He has become known for his courage and seemingly has no issues running back with the flight of the ball.
"It seems reckless at the time but when you're on the field and you see how much support they (teammates) give you, it's quite easy to listen to what they say and do it," Mills said.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan chats to the Rising Star nominees. Picture: AFL Photos
Swans recruiting manager Kinnear Beatson believes the Rising Star winner could get even better once the club can find room in its midfield for him.
"Callum, in time, will push up and play through the midfield, which is where he played a lot of his junior football. We think there's still room for improvement in that area," Beatson said.
Essendon's Darcy Parish finished fourth (19 votes) and Collingwood forward Darcy Moore was fifth with nine votes.
Four other players received votes: Demon Christian Petracca (2), St Kilda's Jade Gresham (2), Melbourne's Clayton Oliver (1) and Fremantle's Lachie Weller (1).
2016 NAB AFL Rising Star
Mills was drafted at No. 3 last year after Melbourne initially placed a bid for him at that position.
After the Swans matched the selection, the Demons selected Oliver.
Demons James Harmes, Oscar McDonald and Clayton Oliver catch up at the ceremony. Picture: AFL Photos
With the Swans finishing on top of the ladder, the 19-year-old could become just the second player to win a premiership in his rising star year, joining Geelong captain Joel Selwood (2007) on that list.
Mills has slotted seamlessly in to the Swans defence, and his hardness and reliability have impressed football observers.
Recruited from North Shore, he is the third Swan to win the award after Dan Hannebery (2010) and Adam Goodes (1999).
Mills missed the final game of the season with a corked calf but has been in full training for the past week and is expected to face Greater Western Sydney in the Swans' qualifying final on Saturday afternoon at ANZ Stadium.
Daniel was drafted at No. 46 in 2014 because of concerns he was too short (168cm) but has cemented a spot in the Dogs' side.
NAB AFL Rising Star winners: 1993-present
|2016||Callum Mills||SYD||49||North Shore (NSW)|
|2015||Jesse Hogan||MELB||49||Claremont (WA)|
|2014||Lewis Taylor||BL||39||Terang-Mortlake (VIC)|
|2013||Jaeger O'Meara||GCFC||44||Perth (WA)|
|2012||Daniel Talia||ADEL||43||Calder Cannons (VIC)|
|2011||Dyson Heppell||ESS||44||Gippsland Power (VIC)|
|2010||Daniel Hannebery||SYD||45||Kew (VIC)|
|2009||Daniel Rich||BL||45||Subiaco (WA)|
|2008||Rhys Palmer||FRE||44||East Fremantle (WA)|
|2007||Joel Selwood||GEEL||44||Bendigo U18|
|2006||Danyle Pearce||PORT||43||Sturt (SA)|
|2005||Brett Deledio||RICH||43||Kyabram/ Murray U18|
|2004||Jared Rivers||MELB||45||North Adelaide (SA)|
|2003||Sam Mitchell||HAW||33||Mooroolbark/ Eastern U18|
|2002||Nick Riewoldt||STK||34||Southport (Qld)|
|2001||Justin Koschitzke||STK||31||Albury (NSW)/ Murray U18|
|2000||Paul Hasleby||FRE||33||East Fremantle (WA)|
|1999||Adam Goodes||SYD||33||Horsham/ North Ballarat U18|
|1998||Byron Pickett||NMFC||30||Port Adelaide (SANFL)|
|1997||Michael Wilson||PORT||27||Port Adelaide (SANFL)|
|1996||Ben Cousins||WCE||-||East Fremantle (WA)|
|1995||Nick Holland||HAW||-||North Adelaide (SA)|
|1994||Chris Scott||BL||-||Eastern U18|
|1993||Nathan Buckley||BL||-||Port Adelaide (SANFL)|
Listen to the Road to the Draft podcast, recorded live at the 2016 NAB AFL Rising Star Awards: