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AFL Rising Star 2021: Can anyone challenge Matt Rowell?

AFLRising Star betting odds - Matthew Rowell is favourite

With the AFL season only a few months away, it is time to get you excited for and familiar with the finest young talent in the country, as we assess the best Rising Star candidates for 2021.

The 2020 NAB AFL draft, held on December 9, was the most viewed draft in history as footy fans’ interest in young players continues to grow each year.

Most first-year players go through rigorous training in order to get on an AFL list, meaning they are ready to go after just one preseason, but who stands out from last year’s crop?

Since COVID-19 put a line through most player’s seasons, AFL recruiters were forced to adapt, taking only the most talented kids who had proven themselves as bottom-agers.

Here’s a little more information about the award itself before we jump into the Rising Star betting markets, including the top chances and odds analysis.


AFL Rising Star Eligibility and nominations

AFL fans often believe the Rising Star award can only be won by a first-year player, but that is simply not true.

The rules surrounding eligibility are simple, as any player under the age of 21, with 10 career games or less at the beginning of the season win the award.

A third-year player who turns 21 on January 2, who has played 10 career games, is still eligible to win the Rising Star, putting some interesting candidates in the running.

At the end of every round, a panel of experts will assess which player deserves their nomination, normally choosing the best performing player that week or one that has played multiple good games.

A player can receive multiple nominations across different seasons, while a suspended player is ineligible to win the award.

Once the regular season is finished, another panel of experts will vote for which player they believe had the best season, awarding five votes to their top pick, four for their second choice and so on.

Fremantle’s Caleb Serong won last season’s Rising Star award with 48 out of a possible 50 votes.

AFL 2021 Rising Star candidates

Here are the top chances for the AFL Rising Star.


Matt Rowell

Team: Gold Coast Suns
Position: Midfielder
Draft Pick: 2019 – #1
Betting odds: $1.30 with Sportsbet

Unless Matt Rowell suffers another season-ending injury or gets suspended, it appears as though this is his award to lose. Rowell dominated the first quarter of the 2020 season before being ruled out with a shoulder injury, but since he played less than 10 games and is only 19-years-old, he’s eligible again this season. Considering he has the eighth best odds in the Brownlow Medal market; he is the obvious choice for the Rising Star.


Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Team: Western Bulldogs
Position: Key Forward
Draft Pick: 2020 – #1
Betting odds: $7 with Sportsbet

There are not many players as special as last year’s number one draft pick. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is already being labelled as the next Lance Franklin. Since Ugle-Hagan was linked to the Western Bulldogs through their Next Generation Academy, they matched Adelaide’s bid for him and secured the future star. With bizarre athleticism and a pure kicking motion, Ugle-Hagan will fit perfectly at AFL level in the Bulldog’s forward line, where he could kick plenty of goals and challenge Matt Rowell for the 2021 Rising Star Award.


Tom Green

Team: GWS Giants

Position: Midfielder
Draft Pick: 2019 – #10
Betting odds: $9 with Sportsbet

Five players were traded away from Greater Western Sydney during the trade period, making room for this young star to establish himself. Tom Green played just six games in his first season for the Giants, as he struggled to find a spot within their elite midfield. With Jye Caldwell and Zac Williams departing, there’s more than enough room for him to thrive this year. Green had 30 disposals in just his fifth senior match and looked very safe in the middle, which will set him apart from his peers. Green is paying $9 with the top Australian bookmakers.


Hayden Young

Team: Fremantle Dockers
Position: Defender
Draft Pick: 2019 – #7 

Betting odds: $21 with Sportsbet

Young joins Rowell and Green as second-year players that will be in the running if they stay healthy. The former Dandenong Stingray won a premiership as an underaged player in 2018, where he was unstoppable at half-back. The Dockers tried to play Young in his natural position, but injuries held him back in 2020. With a full preseason under his belt and more game time under Justin Longmuir, Young will use his elite kicking to break games open and set up the play for Fremantle. Young’s odds could easily plummet if he displays his full potential.


Denver Grainger-Barras

Team: Hawthorn
Position: Defender
Draft Pick: 2020 – #6
Betting odds: $34 with Sportsbet

Rated as the best defender in his draft class, Denver Grainger-Barras was swiftly snatched by Alastair Clarkson and the Hawks, as he fits their program and brand perfectly. A cool head who loves to intercept mark, Grainger-Barras is a smokey for the Rising Star. Since James Sicily will miss most of the season with an ACL tear, Denver should immediately slip into his spot. The retirement of James Frawley also opens up room for the young defender, who will look good in the Brown and Gold.

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