Dyson Heppell has become the first Essendon player in history to win the NAB AFL Rising Star, holding off highly fancied Eagle Luke Shuey on Wednesday.

All season long, Heppell and Shuey were considered the strong favourites to take out the Ron Evans Medal after earning the first two nominations of the year.
Heppell polled 44 votes out of a possible 45. Shuey polled 37 and Gold Coast big man Zac Smith came in third with 21 votes. Gold Coast's David Swallow and West Coast's Jack Darling rounded out the top five.

19-year-old Heppell was voted the winner by a panel comprising chairman and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, AFL general manager football operations Adrian Anderson, AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan and former stars Kevin Bartlett, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Luke Darcy, Leigh Matthews and Mark Ricciuto.

Heppell did not miss a game this year, playing mainly off half-back and in the midfield. He averaged 21.5 possessions.

After winning the 2010 Morrish Medal for the best and fairest in the TAC Cup, Heppell was touted as a potential top five pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft but slipped through to the Bombers at pick eight.

One of his biggest influences has been his childhood hero and now coach James Hird.

The pair's first meeting came the night before the draft when the Essendon legend visited the Heppell family caravan in Burleigh Heads to get to know the man he hoped to draft.

His guidance and advice was a constant for Heppell throughout the season and was crucial in helping him gather 20 touches and getting a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in his first AFL game against the Bulldogs in round one.

Essendon coach James Hird said Dyson has exceeded expectations in his AFL first season.
""Dyson's first season of football has been one of the best I have seen - he's played some terrific football and has worked exceptionally hard,"" Hird said.
""His ability to prepare himself to play every game this season and to have an impact in those games shows his resilience and just how hard he works.
""If he keeps training hard, learning from the coaches and playing his role in the team, we expect him to have a very long and successful AFL career.""
As well as becoming the first Essendon player to win the award, Heppell has become the first graduate of TAC Cup team Gippsland Power to win a Rising Star, an impressive feat considering the Power have provided the League with stars such as Brendon Goddard, Scott Pendlebury, Dale Thomas and Jarryd Roughead.
Dyson Heppell:
Ranked 2nd for Essendon in total disposals for the season
Ranked 3rd for Essendon in total kicks for the season
Ranked 1st for Essendon in total handballs for the season
Ranked 1st for Essendon in total marks for the season
Ranked equal 10th for Essendon in total inside 50s for the season
Ranked equal 8th for Essendon in total goal assists
Ranked 41st for total league disposals
Ranked 65th for total league kicks
Ranked 33rd for total league handballs
Ranked equal 15th for total league marks
One of only seven players to play in all 22 games for Essendon in 2011.
Is the only 2010 National Draftee (first time draftee) to play all 22 games this season.
Leave your message of congratulations to Dyson at the bottom of the page.
In recognition of Dyson Heppell being honoured as the 2011 Rising Star, Essendon Football Club has released a limited edition commemorative signed and framed print, celebrating Dyson’s inspiring and significant achievement in his debut year.

In a fitting award, Dyson has become the first Essendon player to receive the Ron Evans Medal since the award was instituted in 1993.
Celebrate the newly crowned 2011 Rising Star with this exclusive official Dyson Heppell memorabilia piece, by pre-ordering your framed commemorative. Click here to purchase your print today.