Former Geelong Falcons midfielder Sam Walsh was named the 2019 NAB AFL Rising Star on Friday following a stellar debut season for Carlton.
The 184cm 19-year-old was the Rising Star nominee for AFL Round 4 and went on to average 25 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five marks and three tackles per game across all 22 home-and-away matches for the Blues. He finished 2019 as the record-holder for the most disposals won by a first-year player in a season.
Walsh received 54 of a possible 55 votes from the judging panel, with fellow ex-Victorian Under-18 Boys players Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs / Sandringham Dragons), Gryan Miers (Geelong / Geelong Falcons) and Xavier Duursma (Port Adelaide / Gippsland Power) also receiving votes.
Walsh was selected by Carlton with pick no.1 at the 2018 AFL Draft following a remarkable season of individual accolades as a hard-running and skilful ball-getter.
After winning the most disposals for the Falcons in their 2017 Victorian Under-18 Boys premiership victory as a bottom-ager, the St Joseph’s (Geelong FL) product averaged 32 disposals per game in 12 matches as Geelong’s co-captain last year, subsequently winning the club’s best-and-fairest award and being selected in the Victorian Under-18 Boys Team of the Year.
Walsh also co-captained Vic Country at the 2018 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, where he averaged 29 disposals per game across four matches to earn the Larke Medal for the best player in Division 1 of the carnival. He was also named the captain of the AFL Under-18 All Australian Team.
Geelong Falcons Talent Manager Michael Turner said Walsh was “a once-in-a-generation player and a future AFL captain”.
“Sam was always ambitious, but he wasn’t selfishly ambitious,” Turner said. “He knew what he wanted but he did it in a team-oriented manner. Kids like Sam go to clubs and change cultures – particularly clubs that are on the rise.
“I think some of the senior players (at Carlton) would have seen him come in and looked at how he goes about things and thought: ‘Gee, if he’s doing that at 18, I probably better pick up my game a little bit.’
“I’ve had super-talented kids come through the Falcons – like Luke Hodge, Gary Ablett jnr and Patrick Dangerfield – but Sam is probably the best-prepared player I reckon I’ve seen.”
Other former Victorian Under-18 players to be nominated for the AFL Rising Star in 2019 were: Geelong’s Charlie Constable (ex-Sandringham Dragons), West Coast’s Jack Petruccelle (Northern Knights), Essendon’s Dylan Clarke (Eastern Ranges), North Melbourne’s Nick Larkey (Oakleigh Chargers), Hawthorn’s Mitchell Lewis (Calder Cannons), Gold Coast’s Ben King (Sandringham Dragons), Brisbane’s Noah Answerth (Oakleigh Chargers), St Kilda’s Josh Battle (Dandenong Stingrays) and GWS’ Brent Daniels (Bendigo Pioneers).
2019 AFL RISING STAR VOTING
|NAME||AFL CLUB||JUNIOR CLUB/STATE||VOTES|
|Sam Walsh||Carlton||Geelong Falcons||54|
|Connor Rozee||Port Adelaide||South Australia||42|
|Sydney Stack||Richmond||Western Australia||28|
|Bailey Smith||Western Bulldogs||Sandringham Dragons||21|
|Gryan Miers||Geelong||Geelong Falcons||5|
|Cameron Zurhaar||North Melbourne||Western Australia||4|
|Jordan Clark||Geelong||Western Australia||4|
|Nick Blakey||Sydney||New South Wales||3|
|Liam Baker||Richmond||Western Australia||2|
|Oscar Allen||West Coast||Western Australia||1|
|Xavier Duursma||Port Adelaide||Gippsland Power||1|