By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 14 Rising Star Nominee: Tom Highmore
Canberra defender Tom Highmore has followed on from his breakout debut NEAFL season by earning the Round 14 NEAFL Rising Star nomination after his latest performance against Redland.
The 18-year-old polled four NEAFL MVP votes for his 21 disposals and seven marks in the Demons’ eight-point victory at Tidbold Park to join teammates Luke McKay and Matt Vardanega as 2016 nominees.
It comes after his stellar debut season last year where the GWS Giants Academy member featured among Eastlake’s best players nine times in 13 matches to finish runner-up in their best-and-fairest at just 17.
Highmore put his successful debut season down to the faith coach Ben Waite and his teammates showed in him to make a smoother transition from under-18s to senior football.
“I knew I had done the work in the years leading up to it (debut), but they backed me in and gave me an opportunity and as the games went on I was able to repay them,” he said.
“It (senior football) is a lot more difficult, there is no doubt about it. But I think through our training and the help of Ben, and taking on the advice of not just the coaches but the players, that just helps that transition from Under-18 level from being a big fish in a small pond to being a really small fish in a massive pond.”
A mid-sized defender with great composure and versatility, Highmore has been a Giants Academy member since he was 14 and recently represented the NSW/ACT Rams at the National Under-18 Championships.
But his 2016 campaign hasn’t all been smooth sailing. After battling glandular fever - which sidelined the youngster for two months during the pre-season - Highmore injured his groin in his second National Under-18 Championships game.
He played his first match of the NEAFL season in Round 10 when Canberra won its first ever match against the Brisbane Lions, and has kept his spot in the side ever since.
Highmore is loving the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural Canberra Demons side, and described Saturday’s eight-point victory over the Bombers as one of the best he has been a part of.
The Marist junior has aspirations of making it on to an AFL list at season’s end, but for now he is enjoying gaining as much senior experience as he can.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to travel all around the north east of Australia on a week-to-week basis, and play at some of the best stadiums and against the best teams and AFL-listed players,” he said.
“We get so well looked after and we have our training loads monitored so we’re able to do both Giants Academy and Demons training - they take such good care of us.
“Ultimately I’d like to get drafted, but the short-term goal is to keep my spot in the Demons line-up and take it week-by-week.”
The Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 senior games (excluding games as AFL top-up players) at the start of the 2016 season.
Keep track of all the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
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