The Sydney Swans have become the first ever club to land Rising Star nominations in the first two rounds of an AFL season. And their kids are dominating the early market.
Since the award’s inception in 1993, no AFL club has received back-to-back Rising Star nominations to start the season. But this year, the Swans have done exactly that. In Round 1 it was a special three-goal effort against the Lions that landed Errol Gulden the early nomination, while Round 2 saw Gulden’s best mate and penetrating left-footer Braeden Campbell (25 disposals) get the latest gong. But fellow recruit Logan McDonald (five goals in two games) is hot on their heels — and is considered by some judges as the best of the lot. After their impressive opening rounds, the youngsters are the top three favourites for the Rising Star. So, how we do assess each of their hopes?
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) March 17, 2021
Errol Gulden ($3.00)
Quite simply, Gulden looks like he belongs on an AFL footy field. After starting the season as a $26 Rising Star hope, in just two games Gulden has roared into strong favouritism. It’s staggering that it took until pick 32 for a club to bid on the Swans Academy product. Internally, the club was stoked because they knew what a bargain it was. Gulden is a competitive beast but importantly, a beautiful field kick; consistently lowering the eyes to find an inside-50 target. It’s hard to go the early crow after just two games, but his calmness under pressure means he’s a huge chance to take home the award if he stays injury-free.
— Swamp (@sirswampthing) March 22, 2021
Braeden Campbell ($5.00)
Gulden’s best mate and fellow academy product Campbell was the higher-rated of the two at last year’s AFL Draft. And the Swans were forced to match a bid from Hawthorn at pick five to pick up their man. He started the season as a $13 Rising Star hope, but has (similarly) already slashed his price.
A fellow left-footer, Campbell’s worth is slightly different to Gulden in that his penetrating kick can comfortably travel 60-plus metres. His 25-disposal effort against the Crows featured 21 kicks that gained 708 metres — the third-highest of any player for the round. Playing off the half-back line, Campbell is probably least likely to miss games (of the three) during this season, an important factor in weighing up Rising Star picks.
The young bloods keep firing as Braeden Campbell is named as Round 2's Rising Star nominee thanks to @nab
Plenty for Sydney to get excited about with Campbell's 25 disposals, 21 kicks and 6 marks 👏 pic.twitter.com/g3urtzyEub
— AFL (@AFL) March 29, 2021
Logan McDonald ($7.50)
If the Swans were surprised Gulden slipped into the 30s during the AFL Draft, they were absolutely gobsmacked key forward Logan McDonald fell to pick four for them to gladly snap up. Some judges had McDonald as the draft’s best available option (after Jamarra Ugle-Hagan). But he was passed up by both Adelaide and North Melbourne. Without a doubt, both clubs would be kicking themselves after seeing what McDonald (who started the season as a $26 Rising Star hope with Palmerbet) can do in the first two rounds.
McDonald’s overhead and kicking ability is second to none for an 18-year-old, as is his work-rate. Given big men take much longer than smaller players (like Gulden and Campbell) to develop, McDonald’s bar is lower than his two teammates to be picked by the judges for the award. If he can kick 35 goals in his first season and continue providing a presence, he will be very, very hard to look past come September.
Logan McDonald is going to be an absolute jet. I mean, he kind of already is. Been a long time since I remember seeing a key forward who looked so good so quickly https://t.co/iLv8TEzl2p #AFLSwansCrows
— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) March 27, 2021