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AFL Media's Rising Star standouts

The winner of the Rising Star Award has been nominated by round four in half of its 24 years.

That is a good sign for three favourites for this year's NAB Rising Star Award, Port Adelaide's Sam Powell-Pepper, Hawthorn's Ryan Burton and Essendon's Andy McGrath, who were all nominated in the first four rounds this season.

All three fancies have merit with Powell-Pepper aiming to become just the third winner to record more than 100 tackles in a home and away season; McGrath the first No.1 pick to win since Brett Deledio in 2005; and Ryan Burton to become just the second player, after Byron Pickett, to win the award for a club that had won a premiership just two seasons earlier.

It's a crack field with five of the first six players picked in last year's NAB AFL Draft nominated, as well as a father-son and 13 players who have been on the list for more than one season.  

Carlton's Charlie Curnow is equal 14th for contested marks while only two winners in the award's history, Ben Cousins and Jesse Hogan, have kicked more goals in the season they won than the 30 majors the Brisbane Lions' Eric Hipwood's managed in 2016. 

Richmond duo Jason Castagna and Daniel Butler kicked 49 goals between them as pressure forwards while Collingwood's Tom Phillips, the Lions' Alex Witherden and Hawthorn's Burton were the only three nominees to average more than 20 disposals a game in 2017. 

We've seen them in action but went looking for the obscure statistic in which each of the nominees have shone in the past season. 

Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide)
Port Adelaide's raging bull has broken 24 tackles this season to place him equal second with the Western Bulldogs’ Jake Stringer – by a long way, admittedly – behind Richmond's Dustin Martin, who has broken 62 tackles.

Ryan Burton (Hawthorn)
The balanced Hawthorn defender sits 18th in the comp for effective kicks in the defensive half and No.1 at Hawthorn for total intercepts. 

Brandan Parfitt (Geelong)
He was brilliant early and heads into the finals with the fourth-best tackle efficiency at Geelong. 

Andrew McGrath (Essendon)
The No.1 pick has the best defender rating of any player in the competition with at least six or more match-ups of 40 or more minutes. The defender rating is based on what you concede to your opponent compared to his average output. 

Eric Hipwood (Brisbane Lions)
When the mobile forward was involved in a chain of play, the Lions scored 47 per cent of the time, ranking him 21st of anyone to play at least 15 games this season. 

Caleb Marchbank (Carlton)
Against Collingwood in round seven, Marchbank took six intercept marks, the second-most intercept marks in a game by a Carlton player this season. 

Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton)
Clean hands have seen Petrevski-Seton rank equal 15th in the competition for ground level balls won off a marking contest. 

Tim Taranto (Greater Western Sydney)
After 12 games in his first season, with injury the only reason he has not played more, he is ranked fifth at the club for pressure acts per game.

Tom Phillips (Collingwood)
He has great numbers with 37 per cent of his kicks into the forward 50 resulting in a mark to Collingwood and he is ranked No.1 at the club and second in the competition of the top 200 players for kicks into the forward 50.

Wayne Milera (Adelaide)
Milera has averaged 6.92 disposals per turnover, which is the third-best rate at ladder leaders Adelaide.  

Dan Butler (Richmond)
His speed has been instrumental in getting the Tigers into the top four and he is fourth at Richmond for forward 50 pressure acts per game. 

David Cuningham (Carlton)
Still finding his way but he was ranked sixth at the club for kicks inside the forward 50 being retained by Carlton, with the Blues holding on to 58 per cent of his kicks.   

Jack Silvagni (Carlton)
He took 23 marks inside 50 and kicked 19 goals and Carlton retained 64 per cent of his kicks inside 50. 

Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane Lions)
The old Antler has a step and he doesn't mind showing it, being second at the Brisbane Lions for baulks during the season. 

Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn)
He might seem hard-nosed and rough around the edges but Hardwick had the equal fifth-best kicking efficiency of the top 300 kick-getters in the competition. 

Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
A future star, Curnow is one of only five players in the competition to average at least 1.5 contested marks and 2.5 tackles per game.  

Alex Witherden (Brisbane Lions)
Wins plenty of the ball, averaging 23 disposals a game, and is fifth in the competition for effective kicks in the defensive half since his debut in Round 14. 

Lewis Melican (Sydney)
The reliable defender from Birregurra ranks first at the club in spoils, third for contested knock-ons, fourth for intercepts and fifth for intercept marks since his debut. 

Jason Castagna (Richmond)
The other half of the dynamic Butler-Castagna duo ranks fourth in the competition for pressure acts applied inside the forward 50. 

Luke Ryan (Fremantle)
He took nine intercept marks against Gold Coast in Round 20, the most by any player in the game this season. 

Dan Houston (Port Adelaide)
Not only tough but he uses the ball well, launching the equal most scores from the defensive 50 of any Port Adelaide player. 

Ben Ainsworth (Gold Coast)
The sort of leader interim coach Dean Solomon said could take the club forward. When Ainsworth was involved in chains of play, the Suns scored 39 per cent of the time, the third-best percentage at the club. 

Will Hayward (Sydney)
Kicked 22 goals in 17 games in his first season with last year's grand finalists to sit fourth on the club's goalkicking table.   

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs