BROUGHT TO YOU BYNAB

IT IS the wake-up call that Caleb Serong will remember forever. 

On Wednesday morning at 8.30am the Fremantle youngster received a call from coach Justin Longmuir telling him he was this year's winner of the NAB AFL Rising Star. 

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Since then it has been a whirlwind for Serong, who is back in Perth serving his quarantine period after the end of the Dockers' season, but he says he is humbled by the honour of becoming the club's third ever Rising Star. He was officially announced as its winner at Thursday's AFL Awards night.

"It's been pretty full on. I woke up yesterday morning to a phone call from 'JL' and I was like 'What's this going to be about? Am I in some strife or something?' He asked if I was by myself and told me I'd won the Rising Star," Serong told AFL.com.au

"To be honest I was pretty rattled because I'd just woken up so I didn't know what to think, but it was a pretty cool phone call to wake up to." 

01:06 Mins
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NAB AFL Rising Star: Round eight nominee

The NAB AFL Rising Star round eight nominee is Fremantle's Caleb Serong. Check out his highlights

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Serong claimed 48 out of a possible 50 votes to win the Ron Evans Medal ahead of Gold Coast's Noah Anderson (39 votes) and third-placed St Kilda forward Max King. 

Suns forward Izak Rankine, Hawthorn defender Will Day, Brisbane backman Brandon Starcevich and Melbourne goalkicker Kysaiah Pickett were others to poll votes, with injured Suns midfielder Matt Rowell, who was the early favourite for the award before his shoulder surgery, not polling any votes. 

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"It's a massive honour and it's extremely humbling. It's pretty special," Serong said. 

"There's some guys from this year's nominees who are cracking players who are going to have amazing careers, so competing for those guys this year and be able to win the award is pretty special. I'm extremely humbled to win it and it's a massive honour." 

Serong follows Paul Hasleby (in 2000) and Rhys Palmer (2008) as previous Fremantle winners of the Rising Star after his impressive 14-game season that saw him step into the Dockers' midfield and average 17 disposals.

He said as the event had grown closer and he had been installed as the red-hot favourite that it had started to cross his mind about being the winner of the prestigious award. 

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"It was tough because I knew I shouldn't be thinking about it, but naturally your mind drifts to it sometimes, especially when all of your mates are texting you about it every day. It didn't affect me when I was out on the track or on the field or anything, but when you're sitting down and chilling sometimes your mind drifts to it every now and then," he said. 

"It was really nice to hear that from JL, especially coming from him. He's shown a lot of faith in me and the confidence he has shown in me to give me the roles I've had has given me a lot of confidence to go out there and play to my strengths because they believe I can do it so why shouldn't I believe I can?" 

00:19 Mins
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Great way for Serong to notch first career goal

An impressive mark from first-round draftee Caleb Serong and he finishes it off as Fremantle hit the lead

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The Dockers' No.8 draft pick from last year was made to wait until reaching the top level this season, missing selection in round one before the COVID-19 shutdown period took a hold of the game.

But the 19-year-old Victorian, who this week was also voted the AFL Players Association's best first year player, used the time away to improve his fitness and came back in better shape, making his AFL debut in round four and not missing a game since. 

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"I was quite lucky in the end because I felt like that shutdown period really helped. Coming into the start of the year I had a few things to work on, especially that extra bit of fitness, so to have that time to work on that [was helpful]," he said. 

"I went home and trained with my brothers. They came along to every session and they did every gym session and running session with me, and really pushed me along as well.

"I had a lot of improvement during that period and I came back and was able to be in better shape and condition than when I left and it was a really big stepping stone for me for the rest of the year." 

Serong enjoyed a breakout game against Geelong in round eight when he gathered 22 disposals and kicked a classy goal in the driving rain to be awarded that week's NAB AFL Rising Star nomination, but ranks the following week's effort against Collingwood (24 disposals, 14 contested and nine clearances) as his best game of the year. 

01:06 Mins
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Serong's special effort in the pocket

Caleb Serong kicks a great goal in the latter moments of the game

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The Dockers showed exciting signs in Longmuir's first season at the helm and Serong's first in the system, and the teenager said he had settled into the club seamlessly. 

"To be honest I didn't know what to expect coming to the club. Moving across the country I hadn't really heard too much about Freo but this year I couldn't speak highly enough of the club. We're really building an amazing culture and I feel like it's a winning culture," he said. 

"None of us are really accepting honourable losses, JL isn't accepting honourable losses, he doesn't want to be patted on the back. We're here to win and play finals and be a challenger for that flag. I feel like we're a lot closer than some people think."

FULL NAB AFL RISING STAR VOTES

Caleb Serong (Fremantle) 48 votes
Noah Anderson (Gold Coast) 39 votes
Max King (St Kilda) 28 votes
Izak Rankine (Gold Coast) 16 votes
Will Day (Hawthorn) 12 votes
Brandon Starcevich (Brisbane) 6 votes
Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne) 1 vote 

JUDGING PANEL

Gillon McLachlan
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Brandon Starcevich
2 Will Day
1 Izak Rankine 

Kevin Bartlett
5 Noah Anderson
4 Caleb Serong
3 Max King
2 Will Day
1 Izak Rankine 

Kevin Sheehan
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Max King
2 Brandon Starcevich
1 Izak Rankine 

Cameron Ling
5 Caleb Serong
4 Max King
3 Izak Rankine
2 Noah Anderson
1 Kysaiah Pickett 

Chris Johnson
5 Noah Anderson
4 Caleb Serong
3 Max King
2 Izak Rankine
1 Will Day

Matthew Richardson
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Max King
2 Will Day
1 Izak Rankine 

Warren Tredrea
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Max King
2 Will Day
1 Izak Rankine 

Glen Jakovich
5 Caleb Serong
4 Max King
3 Noah Anderson
2 Izak Rankine
1 Brandon Starcevich 

Steve Hocking
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Izak Rankine
2 Max King
1 Will Day 

Luke Darcy
5 Caleb Serong
4 Noah Anderson
3 Max King
2 Will Day
1 Izak Rankine