MELBOURNE coach Paul Roos has seen it all before: a boom youngster coming back from serious injury facing the burden of expectation before they've even played a game.

Last year it was Jesse Hogan, who overcame a long-term back problem and defied even the most optimistic predictions by booting 44 goals and dominating opponents in the air, hauling in the third-most contested marks (47) in the league. 

It was an unforgettable debut season from the hulking forward, deservedly capped off with the NAB AFL Rising Star award.

But now the Demons are bracing for more hype surrounding another future gun, former No.2 draft pick Christian Petracca. 

The 20-year-old had been flying on the track this summer in his comeback from a ruptured ACL, until he broke the little toe on his right foot playing basketball during the Christmas period. 

Despite the setback, which will keep Petracca off his legs for a month, Melbourne fans – and football supporters in general – can't wait to see the midfield bull unleashed and Roos is wary of the building expectation.

"Christian had a tough year, because he didn’t play. But one thing we said to him was that it might've been good for him, because there is a lot of pressure on young kids, particularly early draft picks," Roos told the Demons' website recently.

"I think everyone is really excited, but we can't put too much pressure on him."  

That might be more difficult than Roos hopes, though.

Unlike Hogan at the same time last season, Petracca is already the bookies' top pick to clinch this year's Rising Star gong – although his price has drifted from $5.50 to $6.50 since breaking his toe.

Collingwood forward Darcy Moore – some way back at $9 - is seen to be his biggest rival. But should Petracca be such a clear favourite?

After all, recent history has shown that the battle for the prestigious Rising Star award has been anything but a one-sided affair.

Hogan needed a record number of votes (49 of a possible 50) to overcome Carlton's club champion Patrick Cripps last season, while in 2014 the Brisbane Lions' pocket rocket Lewy Taylor staved off Western Bulldogs gun Marcus Bontempelli by a single vote. 

And at this (very early) stage the 2016 field appears chock-full of contenders. 

Top-three picks Callum Mills, Jacob Weitering and Josh Schache are set to excite in 2016. Picture: AFL Media

Moore is still eligible for the Rising Star after bursting on to the scene late last year and kicking nine goals in as many games – including a haul of five straight in just his third match, a round 17 loss to the Western Bulldogs.

Carlton's prized No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering looms as another major contender, with talent gurus certain the 195cm key defender would've been capable of stepping up to senior football last season. 

Tall forward Josh Schache, taken at pick No.2, will be given time to develop by the Brisbane Lions but his potential is sure to excite, while St Kilda's future spearhead Paddy McCartin is set to feel the benefits from another pre-season under his belt.

Could McCartin become the first No.1 pick since Richmond's Brett Deledio in 2005 to clinch the Rising Star? Or will GWS' Jacob Hopper or the Swans' Callum Mills strike a blow for the northern clubs' academies?

Petracca might be the early favourite, but will another less fancied contender emerge from the pack – a la Cripps last year?

These questions and more will be answered throughout the 2016 premiership season, but with the NAB Challenge kicking off next month, has compiled a list of each club's Rising Star contenders to keep an eye on this year.


Adelaide: Harry Dear, Tom Doedee, Dean Gore, Jake Kelly, Wayne Milera, Reilly O'Brien, Keenan Ramsay, Harrison Wigg

CrownBet shortest odds: Wayne Milera ($21)


Brisbane Lions: Hugh Beasley, Josh Clayton, Liam Dawson, Billy Evans, Matthew Hammelmann, Cian Hanley, Eric Hipwood, Jarrad Jansen, Ben Keays, Rhys Mathieson, Jaden McGrath, Josh McGuinness, Josh Schache, Sam Skinner, Archie Smith, Josh Watts, Reuben William

CrownBet shortest odds: Josh Schache ($21)


Carlton: David Cuningham,Charlie Curnow, Jayden Foster, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Billy Gowers, Harry McKay, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Jack Silvagni, Clem Smith, Jacob Weitering

CrownBet shortest odds: Jacob Weitering ($12)


Collingwood: Ben Crocker, Matt Goodyear, Jonathon Marsh, Brayden Maynard, Darcy Moore, Tom Phillips, Matt Scharenberg, Brayden Sier, Rupert Wills

CrownBet shortest odds: Darcy Moore ($9) 


Essendon: Yestin Eades, Orazio Fantasia, Aaron Francis, Kyle Langford, Jayden Laverde, Jake Long, Conor McKenna, Alex Morgan, Gach Nyuon, Darcy Parish, Mason Redman, Tom Wallis

CrownBet shortest odds: Jayden Laverde ($17) 


Fremantle: Michael Apeness, Harley Balic, Connor Blakely, Joshua Deluca, Brady Grey, Ed Langdon, Ryan Nyhuis, Darcy Tucker, Matthew Uebergang, Lachie Weller

CrownBet shortest odds: Lachie Weller ($17)

The Dockers have high hopes for Lachie Weller after he broke into the side last year. Picture: AFL Media


Geelong: Zac Bates, Wylie Buzza, Jock Cornell, Jordan Cunico, Ryan Gardner, Matthew Hayball, Jake Kolodjashnij, Michael Luxford, James Parsons, Tom Read

CrownBet shortest odds: Jake Kolodjashnij ($21)

Gold Coast

Gold Coast: Callum Ah Chee, Brayden Fiorini, Jarrod Garlett, Jesse Joyce, Jack Leslie, Cameron Loersch, Darcy Macpherson, Joshua Schoenfeld, Mackenzie Willis, Peter Wright

CrownBet shortest odds: Jarrod Garlett ($26)


Greater Western Sydney: Paul Ahern, Jake Barrett, Jeremy Finlayson, Matthew Flynn, Harrison Himmelberg, Jacob Hopper, Matthew Kennedy, Caleb Marchbank, Pat McKenna, Jarrod Pickett, Jack Steele

CrownBet shortest odds: Jack Steele ($21), Jacob Hopper ($21)


Hawthorn: Ryan Burton, Conor Glass, Blake Hardwick, Daniel Howe, Kurt Heatherley, Lachlan Langford, Kieran Lovell, Teia Miles, Jermaine Miller-Lewis, Marc Pittonet, James Sicily, Kade Stewart, Luke Surman, Shem Tatupu, Zac Webster, Dallas Willsmore

CrownBet shortest odds: James Sicily ($26), Kieran Lovell ($26)


Melbourne: James Harmes, Liam Hulett,Jayden Hunt, Max King, Mitch King, Oscar McDonald, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Sam Weideman, Mitch White

CrownBet shortest odds: Christian Petracca ($6.50)

North Melbourne

North Melbourne: Ryan Clarke, Trent Dumont, Sam Durdin, Will Fordham, Mitchell Hibberd, Ben McKay, Declan Mountford, Daniel Nielson, Brayden Preuss, Corey Wagner, Ed Vickers-Willis

Crownbet shortest odds: Trent Dumont ($41), Ben McKay ($41)

Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide: Karl Amon, Logan Austin, Riley Bonner, Darcy Byrne-Jones, Billy Frampton, Cameron Hewett, Dan Houston, Dougal Howard, Aidyn Johnson, Jesse Palmer, Will Snelling

CrownBet shortest odds: Karl Amon ($41)


Richmond: Dan Butler, Jason Castagna, Mabior Chol, Nathan Drummond, Corey Ellis, Oleg Markov, Reece McKenzie, Connor Menadue, Callum Moore, Daniel Rioli, Jayden Short, Ivan Soldo

CrownBet shortest odds: Corey Ellis ($21)

Corey Ellis impressed in his brief showing for Richmond in 2015. Picture: AFL Media

St Kilda

St Kilda: Blake Acres, Nathan Freeman, Hugh Goddard, Nicholas Coughlan, Jade Gresham, Paddy McCartin, Daniel McKenzie, Nick O'Kearney, Brenton Payne, Bailey Rice, Brandon White

CrownBet shortest odds: Hugh Goddard ($15)

Sydney Swans

Sydney Swans: Jordan Dawson, Kyle Galloway, George Hewett, Tyrone Leonardis, Callum Mills, Samuel Murray, Tom Papley, James Rose

CrownBet shortest odds: Callum Mills ($17)

West Coast

West Coast: Matthew Allen, Tom Barrass, Damian Cavka, Tom Cole, Malcolm Karpany, Tom Lamb, Kurt Mutimer, Luke Partington, Jordan Snadden, Alec Waterman

CrownBet shortest odds: Tom Lamb ($21)

Western Bulldogs

Western Bulldogs: Kieran Collins, Zaine Cordy, Bailey Dale, Caleb Daniel, Josh Dunkley, Luke Goetz, Declan Hamilton, Bradley Lynch, Toby McLean, Roarke Smith, Lukas Webb, Bailey Williams

CrownBet shortest odds: Caleb Daniel ($21)