By JESS WEBSTER
For four years Jack Rolls has been a star on the rise, but he hopes this is finally his time to shine as the teenage midfielder once again earns a shot at being crowned the best young player in the NEAFL.
The history-making Redland on-baller last year achieved what no player has done before in the competition, earning a third NEAFL Rising Star nomination from as many years.
This week, he extended his record to four nominations after being among the Bombers’ best in their loss to Sydney University at Henson Park, after an impressive 28 disposals, 11 tackles, seven clearances and nine inside 50s.
But for Rolls, having been nominated multiple times for an award he is still yet to win reflects a young player whose career still hasn’t reached the heights many people he is capable of.
The Morningside junior first burst on to the scene as a 16-year-old academy player for Brisbane back in 2015, earning his first Rising Star nomination on debut.
A member of the Lions Academy since he was 14, Rolls played 12 NEAFL games over his first two seasons while balancing Under-18 commitments, which saw him tour the United States with the NAB AFL Academy and represent the Allies at the National Under-18 Championships.
After missing out on being drafted in his 18th year, Rolls joined Redland last year, where he earned a third nomination following 29 disposals, 10 tackles, nine clearances and nine inside 50s – plus eight NEAFL MVP votes.
Rolls would be limited to just 14 games for the season after a partial meniscus tear in his knee delayed his start to the season.
Despite this, Rolls still finished the season ranked second highest at the club in average Champion Data ranking points (94 per game), and was named in Redland’s best in seven of his 14 games.
In an ominous warning in the early stages of 2018, Rolls said he finally believes he can produce his best football.
“I do feel like this is the best prepared I’ve been (for a season of senior football),” he told neafl.com.au.
“It’s probably been one of the few pre-season I’ve had where I’ve had zero interruptions. I started pre-season from day one and have been able to do every session with no little niggles or nights off.
“Hopefully having that whole pre-season will mean I can have my most consistent year.”
After two matches, Rolls has collected 55 disposals (48.1 per cent contested), 10 inside 50s, 20 tackles and 17 clearances.
After spending most of his junior years between half-forward, half-back and as an outside midfielder, Rolls said he enjoyed adapting to his inside midfielder role last year as he settled into a new club.
“Last year I hadn’t really played much as an inside midfielder, so having those 14 NEAFL games under my belt will hopefully help me confidence-wise now that I have that platform to build off,” he said.
“That was the main thing for me last year, was to have the same environment week-in, week-out, and having a healthy environment where I feel a part of the team.”
Rolls has had a rollercoaster start to his senior career over the past four years.
The AFL dream is still alive, but he is relishing the chance to thrive without the pressure on his shoulders.
His is only 19, but Rolls feels more mature, settled and relaxed – all key attributes he believes he needs to get the best out of himself.
“For me, it’s about trying to enjoy my footy as much as I can and if it (AFL) was to happen, obviously I’d grab the opportunity with both hands,” he said.
“I remember feeling the pressure every weekend during Under-18s where I was thinking, there are so many people there watching me and critiquing my every move.
“I feel a lot more relaxed now and I don’t even think about that anymore, which is something I enjoy.
“I’m still pretty young, so I just want to focus on building and improving from last year, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 senior games (excluding games as AFL Academy players) at the start of the 2018 season.
Keep track of all 2018 nominees here.
Join our NEAFL Tipping Competition for your chance to win cash! Register here.
Don’t forget to download our free NEAFL App, featuring live Champion Data stats, player bios and more! Available now from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Have your say! Follow the NEAFL on Twitter (@neaflofficial), Instagram (@neaflofficial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/neaflofficial).