Nik Cox has become the first of a talented crop of Essendon youngsters to receive a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in 2021.
The 19-year-old earned the round 12 nod for his standout performance on the wing against Richmond at Optus Stadium on Saturday night, registering 23 disposals, eight marks, one goal and seven score involvements.
He also played a remarkable 91 per cent game time – the highest of all full-time midfielders on the night – in a measure of his elite endurance.
Essendon’s first selection (No.8 overall) in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, Cox made his debut in round one and has played every game since.
Drafted with the versatility to play as a defender, midfielder or forward, the 202cm Northern Knights product has impressed with his skills and decision-making on a wing in his debut season, averaging 13 disposals and booting eight goals.
General manager of football Josh Mahoney said the Rising Star nod was due reward for Cox’s hard work.
“We’ve been pleased with Nik’s progress since he arrived at the club,” Mahoney said.
“To play every game so far this season after no competitive football in his draft year is a testament to his commitment in wanting to get better week in and week out, and we know he will continue to display that.
“This Rising Star nomination is well deserved for Nik and we are enjoying watching his growth with every game he plays.”
Cox is one of six Bombers to have made their AFL debuts this season, joining Harrison Jones (round one), Archie Perkins (three), Alec Waterman (three), Zach Reid (five) and Nick Bryan (seven).
He’ll be one of 23 nominated players vying to become the overall 2021 NAB AFL Rising Star winner, with the winner to be awarded the Ron Evans Medal, along with $20,000 from NAB and a dedicated private banker.
Dyson Heppell (2011) and Andrew McGrath (2017) are the Bombers’ only Rising Star winners since the award’s inception in 1993.