The kid everyone's talking about

The kid everyone's talking about

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Jaidyn Stephenson became the Magpies’ second Rising Star nominee in as many weeks but before he was tearing up the Adelaide Oval turf, the teenager dominated for the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup. There he played alongside Collingwood teammate Callum Brown who shares his experiences with Stephenson in an exclusive column.

When the kid everyone is talking about, Jaidyn Stephenson, marked the ball just outside 50 on Friday night, I had a moment of déjà vu.

I’d seen it before, three years earlier in a TAC Cup final at Ikon Park. I was playing for the Eastern Ranges as a bottom-ager against the Calder Cannons alongside Jaidyn, who was a year younger than I was.

Jaidyn took a mark on the forward flank but, instead of nailing it like he did against the Crows on Friday night, he ran up, took on the guy on the mark and slotted it.

Who even thinks of doing that? Let alone having the courage to try it and then being skilful enough to pull it off — it was one of those truly remarkable moments.

Obviously, he’s come a long way since then — clearly there was no need to try and take on the guy on the mark on Friday night — but that finals series he played in 2015 was when I realised that this kid will probably be drafted.

He played in our Grand Final loss against Oakleigh that year and was one of our best. He kicked three goals that day, finishing with 10 from our four finals matches — pretty ridiculous for a bloke who was two years younger than most of the other guys.

I played with him again in 2016 before joining the Magpies. He actually played with my brother, Tyler, last season before they both were reunited at Collingwood.

The first day of pre-season for Tyler and Jaidyn last year, we all went in together. I showed them around a little bit, which I think made it a bit easier for them at the start.

He must’ve been comfortable because Jaidyn came in and played exactly how he would normally straight away. He didn’t shy away from anything, which was impressive.

He went for his marks, took on teammates during competitive drills and displayed that confidence and dare that not many younger players show straight up — it was rare to see.

One training that stood out for me was during our pre-season training camp on the Gold Coast. It was January and Jaidyn took a few contested grabs and broke the lines during a match simulation session.

I had a fair sense of what he was capable of but many of our teammates hadn’t at that point. That set the standard for what he’s produced on the track since.

So, I must admit, I wasn’t hugely surprised by his performance in Round 4. He wasn’t expected to do anything extraordinary, given it was his fourth game, but I didn’t think we’d be waiting long for everything to click for him on the big stage.

He definitely doesn’t lack any confidence on the field — that’s just the way he is. He has this immense sense of belief in himself and his abilities. It’s fun to see and play alongside.

He’s a really good bloke off the field, too. He’s outgoing but also laid back and doesn’t stress about too much. He’s a likable guy.

He’s obviously had a bit of media attention since Friday but that won’t affect him much. I remember reading something that mentioned his love for barbeque chicken pizzas on the day before a game but he actually told me they got the type of pizza wrong — it’s meatlovers!

afl rising star nominees in 2018

Round 1 — RILEY BONNER

Round 2 — TOM DOEDEE

Round 3 — SAM MURRAY

Round 4 — JAIDYN STEPHENSON

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