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.

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NAB AFL Rising Star: Josh Ward stars in round eighteen

Watch the highlights and find out why Josh Ward gets the NAB AFL Rising Star in Rd18

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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.

Josh Ward high fives Hawks fans after winning in round one against North Melbourne at the MCG on March 20, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

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.