Talia wins Rising Star award
AFL Rising Star winner Daniel Talia. Photo: Pat Scala
RECRUITERS repeat the same line before every single draft: that they’re planning to take the ‘‘best available player’’ with their pick. Daniel Talia, who won the Ron Evans Medal as this year’s Rising Star, is proof that it’s not necessarily a cliche.
At the end of 2009, Adelaide had Ben Rutten and Nathan Bock teaming up in defence. Phil Davis had been drafted just 12 months earlier. The last thing the Crows wanted or needed was another young, tall backman and they went to the draft hoping to pick from Andrew Moore or Koby Stevens. But when Talia slipped past Melbourne and Carlton to their pick 13, he became irresistible.
It was, as it has turned out, an inspired choice. First, Bock moved to the Gold Coast. Then Phil Davis signed with the Giants. Having moved to Adelaide with a bad hamstring injury, then overcome knee and Achilles problems in his first two years, Talia knew at the end of last year that his time had come, like it or not. He believes his injury problems got him ready for his first chance, teaching him plenty about patience, persistence and hard work.
It is a chance the 20-year-old has taken, not only playing in every game since late last year after the Davis defection, but handling such opponents as Lance Franklin, Tom Hawkins, Nick Riewoldt, Jack Riewoldt and Matthew Pavlich. Talia’s keep-it-simple, kill-the-ball approach has prompted his teammates to nickname him ‘‘Presti’’, after Collingwood’s Simon Prestigiacomo, something he doesn’t expect to feel comfortable about until he’s played another 200 games.
‘‘Getting to the club, there were a lot of key defenders there and early on that made me work hard,’’ said Talia, whose 43 votes beat out Giant Jeremy Cameron’s 35, and Western Bulldog onballer Mitch Wallis’ 19.
Adelaide’s first ever Rising Star, his win was bizarrely announced about 15 minutes after it was revealed on the AFL’s website, then celebrated by his club, coach and supporters on Twitter.
‘‘It was a good thing at the time because you’re able to learn off those older guys, the Nathan Bocks and Ben Ruttens and Scotty Stevens. They mentor you and help you develop your game really quickly.
‘‘Then Bocky and Phil left, and it opened up a spot. I was a fair way off at the start, but then that opportunity arose and I grabbed it with both hands. Hopefully I can continue to keep that spot, and play well in that spot.’’
Talia, the grandson of Bulldogs premiership player Harvey Stevens, found it difficult to leave his large, close family when he was drafted from the Calder Cannons, but displayed loyalty even before he got his big break, re-signing after the team he grew up barracking for, Carlton, tried to get him back home as part of the Sam Jacobs trade deal two years ago.
Asked how he planned to spend his prizemoney, he said he wanted to pay it off his girlfriend’s parents’ home, given they were letting him live there.
He expects to feel nervous heading into his first finals games, where everything counts for much more, but doesn’t see that as a bad thing.
‘‘Everyone gets nervous going into any sporting event. I suppose it’s natural, and you’ve got to deal with that,’’ he said.
‘‘I just believe in myself, and never doubt myself. When you play on a big name player you’ve got to have confidence that you’ll be able to beat him. That’s what I try to take into every game and I don’t believe I’m going to get beaten, so I just try to take that out there and do my best. I really can’t wait to experience September at the highest level and play on some really good players.’’