Emerging star Nik Cox says he's honoured to be wearing the No.13 made famous by Essendon great Michael Long.
In a week celebrating Long's incredible contribution to football and advocacy for Indigenous rights, Cox did the No.13 proud in Saturday night's Dreamtime in Perth blockbuster to earn the round 12 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.
The Bombers have made no secret of the fact they’re going ‘back to the future’ under senior coach Ben Rutten in a bid to further understand the club’s proud and rich history.
That included a special address from Long in a team meeting in Perth last week, which struck a chord with Cox on the eve of a unique and powerful fixture.
“What he (Long) did for the footy club on the field was obviously pretty special, but what he did off the field as well for the Indigenous community and what he continues to do is incredible. It is a real honour to have his number," Cox told SEN 1116's Dwayne's World on Tuesday.
“It (Dreamtime in Perth) was really incredible. I compared it to the MCG on Anzac Day and it was almost louder. Optus Stadium was pretty incredible, too, and especially being Dreamtime I noticed that every single time 'Walla' (Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti) got the footy, the crowd was electric, so it was all pretty incredible."
The 19-year-old earned the round 12 Rising Star nod for his standout performance on the wing on Saturday night, registering 23 disposals, eight marks, one goal and seven score involvements, while playing more game-time (91 per cent) than any other full-time midfielder on the ground.
Even before his nomination, Cox had been touted externally as one of the favourites to claim the overall award and become just the third Rising Star winner in Essendon history after Dyson Heppell (2011) and Andrew McGrath (2017).
While admitting a sense of relief to now officially be in the running for the overall award, Cox said he was just focused on team success and playing his part to make it happen.
“I guess so (nomination being a relief), but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind," he said.
“It is nice recognition for the hard work, but I’m more focused on us winning games because that’s what I want more.
“Personally, I think Saturday was my most involved performance, although I had a few turnovers. I was exhausted out there, they’re a quality team Richmond. But to be getting a game each week is something I know I’m very lucky to be a part of, so I’m really happy out there every single week.”