As Lance Franklin racked up 10 goals in Sydney’s thumping win over Carlton on the weekend, this year’s 22nd and final AFL Rising Star nomination Will Hayward picked off his third hat-trick of the season.
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Statistically it was one of Hayward’s quietest games as he managed only three touches in a remarkably efficient performance, but the AFL had seen enough already this year to nominate Hayward as one of its star youngsters after a superb debut season.

The 18-year-old has played 17 games after being taken with pick 21 in last year’s draft, kicking 22 goals alongside Coleman medallist Franklin who Hayward credits as a major influence in his transition to the AFL.

“He’s always there getting around me if I kick a goal, it’s really good and he gives me a lot of confidence,” Hayward said.

“It was very special to witness that, you don’t get to run out on the SCG and witness Bud kick 10 every week so it was pretty special.

“He’s been huge along with everyone else in the forward group and Brett Kirk, the forwards coach, they teach me endless things and I learn something new every training session and every day I’m here.”

Teammate Tom Papley has anointed Hayward as coach John Longmire’s “teacher’s pet”, and it’s easy to see why he’s forged such a reputation.

He kicked three goals in just his second game, the Swans’ one-point loss to Collingwood in round three, and has failed to kick a major in only five matches.

Hayward has played in 10 of the Swans’ 14 wins, and has forced his way into the best 22 while many of his more experienced teammates have been unable to do so after Sydney’s playing list has returned to full health.

“At the start there was that stage where we were struggling a bit and had a few players out,” Hayward said.

“There was just that stage where we went back to doing the basics well and we got a few of our key players back and it all turned around from there.

“Given from how we’ve started they [the fans] have been huge, the crowds at our home games have been getting bigger and bigger the support we have had from our crowds has been really good.

“I always knew how big a club it was, even as an Adelaide boy I knew it was such a successful club and so rich in history and I was stoked when my name was read out by them on draft night.”

Hayward is Sydney’s second Rising Star nomination, following Lewis Melican’s superb showing in the round-18 win over St Kilda.

Swans youngster Callum Mills won last year’s Rising Star, and has been one of Sydney’s most consistent performers again in 2017 having played every game.

The Swans host Essendon on Saturday week in an elimination final at the SCG.


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