LEWIS Taylor’s plans for some family time with his Mortlake father Simon and brother Toby were scuppered yesterday when he was voted the AFL’s rising star.
The Brisbane Lions livewire forward was joined by the pair at the gala luncheon in Melbourne but after Taylor claimed the prestigious award by one vote, he was swamped by media and sponsor commitments. The venue for their catch-up changed.
Simon and Toby were last night flying to Brisbane with the Terang Mortlake export to celebrate his outstanding debut AFL season.
“We’ll spend a few days together up there,” Taylor said.
He paid tribute to his dad, who raised him and Toby.
“Dad’s been great for me, getting me to games, where I need to be, training, representative stuff,” Taylor said.
“We’ve had some good times along the way so I’m very thankful. He’s worked hard to get me and my brother back and settle us down and get us on the right path, which he’s done.”
But they won’t have long together to savour the success. Taylor and his Lions teammates fly out to Singapore early next week on their end-of-season trip.
The 19-year-old became the first south-west draftee to be named the AFL’s rising star yesterday, edging out Western Bulldogs midfielder Marcus Bontempelli by the smallest margin since the award was introduced in 1993 — 39 votes to 38.
“I’m not a big one to go and play for those things,” Taylor said. “At the end of the day you want the team success.
“Obviously to win this, it means all the hard work is paying off and all the hard work I put in during the season is paying off.”
Taylor was one vote ahead of Bontempelli with two commentators’ votes to be announced during the count at Crown Palladium.
“I didn’t come into it too confident. I’m not one to listen to all the outside media stuff,” the player known as Squizzy said.
He was calm when the function started.
“I didn’t know what to expect. When it got down to the last couple of votes I got nervous, I’m human. Either way I was going to be happy. I’m just very honoured.”
Taylor collected the Ron Evans Medal, a $20,000 private wealth investment portfolio and access to a dedicated personal banker, courtesy of National Australia Bank.
Taylor, who was drafted from Terang Mortlake and TAC Cup side Geelong Falcons, said he had never dreamt of such an impressive debut season. He played all 22 Lions matches, averaged 17 disposals, five contested and 12 uncontested, four marks, two inside 50s and two tackles a game. Of the 23 nominees for the award, Taylor had the most disposals, the third-most score involvements and fifth-most contested possessions.
“I definitely didn’t think I would play every game. I had a goal set to play just the one game. I thought I would do an extra pre-season, lots of running and play in the reserves.”
He said he was loving the environment at the Lions, where a host of young players were emerging with the common goal of premiership success.
“A big thing for the first-year players is to try and get involved with the players and the club and I think I have done that. The coaching staff have been great.”
Taylor is a popular figure in Mortlake and the club where his career started, Terang Mortlake.
Bloods coach Matthew Irving was delighted for Taylor.
“He never will forget where he is from,” Irving said.
“Country boys like him don’t. Every opportunity he gets he comes home.
“He was at the Warrnambool game with us (in round 13) and he trained with us on the Tuesday night. I asked him to come and meet some kids at school (Terang College) and he did.”
Irving said Taylor’s success was richly deserved.
“Toby is playing here and their old man (Simon) supports us when he can. It’s not only a great thing for the footy club but Mortlake the town, our footy club and Terang. It puts us on the map a bit.
“His background is pretty well documented and how hard he has had to do it (without his mother being around).
“He will see this as a stepping stone. He always tries to get the best out of himself.”
The award was based on 5-4-3-2-1 voting from a panel headed by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and including football experts Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Mark Evans, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Matthew Richardson, Warren Tredrea, Kevin Sheehan and Cameron Ling.
Taylor received votes from all except Ling, with five of 10 judges awarding him the maximum of five votes.
WATCH: Our pre-draft video with Taylor below.
READ: Our pre-draft interview with Taylor here
Congratulations to Lewis Taylor on winning the NAB Rising Star . He had a brilliant first year !— Terry Wallace (@thelistmanager) September 3, 2014
Good boy @LewyTaylor7 ..... Love the kid, what a great story from a great family! Your old man should take a bow!!!— Tom Rockliff (@rockwiz38) September 3, 2014