HAWTHORN midfield dynamo Josh Ward is the round 18 NAB AFL Rising Star after he played a crucial role in the Hawks' big win over West Coast on Sunday.
Ward produced his best performance yet at the MCG, amassing a career-high 34 disposals, including six clearances and eight score involvements, in the Hawks' 25-point victory.
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The 18-year-old's breakout game also earned him six coaches' votes.
A lifelong Hawthorn fan, Ward arrived at the club from the Northern Knights with pick No.7 in the 2021 NAB AFL Draft.
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The hard-running midfielder's debut season in the brown and gold got off to a scintillating start after he earned a round one debut following an impressive pre-season. He went on to play seven of the first eight games of the year before being omitted ahead of round nine.
After suffering concussion playing for Box Hill, the 18-year-old was sidelined for a month before returning through the VFL.
Ward was recalled to the senior side for the Hawks' round 17 win over Adelaide, before producing his career-best game on the weekend.