BRENDON Bolton's faith in Paddy Dow is, perhaps, best demonstrated in his willingness to throw him into the midfield cauldron.

Only Patrick Cripps, Ed Curnow, ruckman Matthew Kreuzer and Zac Fisher have more centre-square attendances among Carlton footballers this year than 18-year-old Dow.

Mature-age recruits Tim Kelly (Geelong) and Bailey Banfield (Fremantle) – at ages 23 and 20, respectively – are the only first-year players across the AFL to top him in that category.

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Dow, who hails from a fruit farm near Swan Hill, reached the 20-possession plateau for the first time on Sunday and was rewarded with the round 14 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.

"I'm just getting experience each week and gaining confidence at that higher level, which is worth its weight in gold," last year's No.3 draft pick told

"I'm over the moon and couldn't be happier (about being a Rising Star nominee).

"It means a lot to me, being recognised for individual performance, especially in a game where we really fought hard against a quality side like Collingwood."

His AFL dream went into overdrive when he made the Central Murray schoolboys' team four years ago, followed by selection in the Victorian under-15s side.

It was then that Dow started to think he could realistically make a career out of football, a belief rammed home with under-18 All Australian honours last year.

"Up until I played at the level against other regions, like Bendigo and Echuca, I didn't really know where I sat," he said.

"(Giants draftee) Brent Daniels and (Blues teammate) Lochie O'Brien were coming up at the same time and we were all pretty similar."

Dow hasn't missed a game since Bolton called him the day before round one to tell him he would make his AFL debut against Richmond in a contest that attracted 90,151 fans.

The Geelong Grammar graduate was in the car with Cripps and Fisher, on the way to dinner, and after largely avoiding thinking about the match until then, he suddenly couldn't think of anything else.

"I tried not to consume myself in the thought of playing in front of 90,000 people," Dow said.

"But I just tried to mentally prepare for it and I went out there and had the time of my life. It was an unreal experience to get to play in front of that many people."

Part of the reason for Dow's heightened opportunities is the well-documented rebuilding phase Carlton is deep into.

The Blues have just one win from 13 games this season, although their competitiveness has improved in the past month.

That's made for a difficult entry to the AFL scene for the former Bendigo Pioneer, but he is loving his time at Ikon Park.

Dow is a key part of Generation Next at Carlton, along with the likes of Charlie Curnow, Fisher, O'Brien, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harry McKay, David Cuningham and Matthew Kennedy.

"I went to the club not really expecting heaps and was just going there to earn the respect of teammates, find my spot and get comfortable at the club," he said.

"It's a very close-knit group, especially the coaches and players, and even though we're not getting the results, everyone's looking out for each other.

"It's exciting to know I'm at the start of my career at Carlton and from now on things will be brighter and brighter each year, so that is an exciting thought."

There might even be another Dow to come in the AFL, with his younger brother Thomson following the same path at Geelong Grammar and the Pioneers.