EVEN Rory Laird admits he's been surprised with how well he's transitioned to AFL football after becoming Adelaide's third NAB AFL Rising Star nominee this year.
Laird's nomination follows those of Brad Crouch and Sam Kerridge.
The rookie-listed Adelaide defender has become one of the club's most important defenders in 2013 after making his debut in round four.
He's averaged 18 possessions and three tackles a game this year but it's been his courage for a 15-gamer that has really impressed.
Laird continually throws his body at the contest and has drawn praise from coach Brenton Sanderson all season long, particularly for his final-quarter effort in the Crows' nine-point win over North Melbourne last weekend.
His 24 disposals, seven marks, three tackles and four inside 50s finally earned Laird a nomination for this year's NAB AFL Rising Star award, but the 19-year-old told AFL.com.au he was just happy getting a game.
"It's a really good achievement to get recognised by the AFL, but to tell you the truth, even if I didn't get a nomination, I'm just happy being in the team," Laird said.
"I really didn't see myself getting a game until later in the year but this year's goal was to just try and get on the list and then maybe try and get a game.
"I set pretty high expectations of myself but I think I've gone better than I thought I would."
Laird's had to work harder than most for his nomination, having been overlooked despite performing week after week.
He amassed 29 possessions and took 10 marks against Gold Coast in round 14, 24 touches and seven tackles against Fremantle in round 10 and from rounds 16-18 he averaged more than 21 disposals a game.
Teammate Brodie Smith took to Twitter to vent:

 Patrick Dangerfield didn't wait long before retweeting Smith's sentiment.
Laird laughed off the campaign, but said their reactions reinforced that he was doing the right thing by the team.
"They kept saying it each week, 'when are you going to get it'," Laird laughed.
"But each time they said it it just meant I had done my role for the team.
"I was just happy I could do that."
Laird said his cleanness when in possession and decision-making had helped him at the elite level, although he wanted to improve his kicking skills and fitness levels before next season.

He's got another two seasons to hone his skills after he and fellow youngster Mitch Grigg penned new deals with the club on Tuesday.
The pair signed two-year deals that will keep them at West Lakes until at least the end of the 2015 season.
Crows list manager David Noble said the club was thrilled to lock the promising duo away.
“Both Rory and Mitch have worked extremely hard and made the most of their opportunities at senior level this year,” Noble said.

“We are really excited to secure a reliable defender in Rory Laird and highly-skilled midfielder Mitch Grigg, and feel these players will play important roles for the side for many years to come.”