Sydney half-forward Harry Cunningham has been rewarded for his consistent season, receiving the Round 15 Rising Star nomination.
The speedy swan collected 17 disposals and seven marks during his side’s 46-point win over cross-town rivals Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old has played 20 games since debuting in the inaugural Sydney derby against the Giants in 2012 but 2014 has been his breakout season, playing every match and averaging 13 disposals and kicking 11 goals.
“When the Giants didn’t pick me I knew I had one last chance with the Swans” – Harry Cunningham.
Saturday’s match was far from the only occasion this season when the versatile Cunningham has impressed; he played well against Richmond a week earlier, and kicked four goals against Gold Coast in Round 12.
The boy from Wagga Wagga spoke earlier this season about the influence former Swans captain and Brownlow Medallist, Paul Kelly, has had on his short career.
“It was a huge advantage for me to have someone like Paul share his knowledge with me. The impact he’s had on the AFL… I can only learn from it,” Cunningham said.
“He’s done a lot for the game and a lot in the game. To be able to work with him when I was younger was huge in my development and in getting to where I am today.”
After being part of GWS’s academy, Cunningham was overlooked by the Giants’ as a zone selection and admits he was running out of options to forge an AFL career.
“When the Giants didn’t pick me I knew I had one last chance with the Swans,” he said.
“It did drive me on.”
Cunningham is the Swans’ first nomination this season and is only their third nomination since Dan Hannebery won the award in 2010.
He becomes the first former rookie listed player to be nominated for the Rising Star award this season, with only one winner coming from the rookie list since its inception in 1993 – Danyle Pearce in 2006.
Sydney has 21 Rising Star nominations in the award’s 22-year history for two winners – Adam Goodes in 1999 and Daniel Hannebery in 2010.
Cunningham is eligible for this year’s #22Under22 side. Will he make it into your team? Let us know in the comment box below.