Luke Jackson becomes the first key forward/ruck to win the AFL’s Rising Star Award this century

During an outstanding second AFL season key forward/ruck Luke Jackson played 21 of a possible 22 games for Melbourne during the 2021 home and away season and impressed with his competitiveness, athleticism and ability to kick goals. Jackson won the AFL’s 2021 Rising Star Award in convincing fashion on Thursday 26 August, polling 51 votes from a maximum 55 votes to win the award by 13 votes from Greater Western Sydney midfielder Tom Green with Port Adelaide forward Mitch Georgiades finishing third on 28 votes. 

Jackson had a decorated junior career in two sports – basketball and Australian Rules football, in each sport he was a member of a Western Australian team that won an Under-18 national championship.

At under-age level Jackson represented Australia in basketball at several tournaments including the 2018 Under 17 Basketball World Cup in Argentina where he registered six double-doubles from seven games to lead Australia for scoring and rebounding and be ranked second overall at the tournament for rebounds per game.

When Jackson was in high school he joined Bull Creek Leeming Junior Football Club and progressed to play for East Fremantle and represent Western Australia.

Playing all four games for Western Australia at the 2019 NAB AFL Under-18 National Championships Jackson excelled to be the dominant ruckman at the tournament, earning selection in the 2019 AFL Under 18 All-Australian team and finished runner-up in the Larke Medal for the player of the championships.

Melbourne selected Jackson with the third pick overall at the 2019 AFL National Draft. In his debut AFL season Jackson played six games for Melbourne in 2020 and missed five games due to a hamstring injury.

In 2021 Jackson performed an important role for Melbourne as a key forward/ruck and ranks in the top seven at the Demons this season for contested marks, marks inside 50, goals and clearances. Melbourne had 17 wins, one draw and four losses in 2021 to win their first minor premiership since 1964. On Friday 10 September, 2021 Melbourne play Geelong in a preliminary in Jackson’s home state of Western Australia at Optus Stadium. Playing as a key forward/ruck Jackson won the AFL’s 2021 Rising Star Award, the only previous key forward/ruck to win the award was Adam Goodes playing for the Sydney Swans in 1999.

Luke Jackson with ball in hand and about to handball to Jack Viney playing for Melbourne against Richmond at the MCG in the Anzac Day Eve game on 24 April, 2021

During the Rising Star Media Conference on 27 August 19 year-old Jackson commented on winning the AFL’s 2021 NAB Rising Star Award “It is a massive honour for me, to see the previous winners that have won the award as well, yeah it is a great honour and something me and my family are really proud of.”  

Jackson’s junior sporting career in basketball and Australian Rules football as well as his first two AFL seasons as a forward/ruck with the Melbourne Football Club is comprehensively covered below.

Early life and junior career

Luke Jackson was born on 29 September 2001 in Fremantle, Western Australia. At six years of age  Jackson, followed in the footsteps of his older brothers and started playing basketball. Playing basketball for Willetton, Jackson excelled which led to him representing Western Australia at junior level.

When Jackson was in Year 8 he joined Bull Creek Leeming Junior Football Club and for several years played Australian Rules football as well as basketball. Although Jackson commenced playing Australian Rules football much later than his peers his talent was quickly apparent and in 2017 he was part of the NAB AFL Academy Level 1 squad intake. Jackson and one of his Bull Creek Leeming teammates Trent Rivers have progressed through the football ranks together, being teammates for Western Australia at under-age level and are now teammates in the AFL with Melbourne.

At the 2017 NAB AFL Under-16 Championships Jackson was part of the Western Australian team that won all three of their games by a goal or less to win the national title in thrilling fashion. Western Australia defeated South Australia by six points in Round 1 and then defeated Vic Country and Vic Metro by one point each in Round 2 and 3 respectively. In all three games Jackson was listed in Western Australia’s best players.

In the Simply Energy Draft Story – Luke Jackson video Jackson commented on his junior basketball career “I think I just played basketball because my brothers played it and I just wanted to join in like them and have fun. Yeah, I tried out for a few state teams and was lucky enough to get in those and then got a bit higher as it went on so yeah, it started to get pretty serious pretty quick.”

Jackson had success with Western Australia at under-age basketball National Championships, most notably being a member of the WA metro team that won the 2018 Under 18 National Championship, the State’s first title in that tournament since 2000. 

As a junior Jackson represented Australia in basketball at several tournaments. Jackson was a starter on the Australian Crocodiles team that won a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Asian Championships in April, defeating host nation China 91-67 in the final. At the tournament Jackson led Australia for rebounds and minutes played, ranked equal second for steals and fifth for scoring. Jackson’s 10.8 rebounds per game ranked second overall at the tournament.   

At the 2018 Under 17 Basketball World Cup in Argentina from 30 June to 8 July Jackson was a starter for Australia and had in outstanding tournament. In his role as a forward Jackson played at least 29 minutes in all seven games and averaged 13.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 31.9 minutes per game. Throughout the tournament Jackson was extremely consistent, registering double doubles in six of his seven games and in the game that he didn’t reach this mark fell only two rebounds short. The Australian Crocodiles won three of their six games and finished sixth at the World Cup. Jackson led Australia for scoring and rebounds, ranked third for minutes played and fourth for assists. Jackson ranked second at the tournament overall for rebounds per game and made 51.3% of his field goal attempts, ranked second for the Crocodiles behind fellow starting forward Luke Travers with 58.5%. Travers played in the NBL for the Perth Wildcats in 2019/20 and 2021 and had a couple of stints as a starting forward in the latter season

Shortly after the World Cup, Jackson in late July 2018 at 16 years of age decided to focus purely on football and stopped playing basketball. After making this decision Jackson told “I wanted to keep my final decision open until I’d played at Worlds. I loved the experience, and then going back to the AIS this past week for the NBA Global Games, I kept myself open to going either way. In the end it just came down to what felt right in my gut. It’s a big relief and definitely only having one sport to focus on, I can (now) put everything into that. Now I’ll have more time and opportunity to develop my footy craft.”1

In AFL Prospectus 2019 Jackson was the only ruckman included in Champion Data’s projected top 25 for the 2019 NAB AFL Draft.2 When Jackson was growing up he idolised West Coast Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui. In November 2019 Jackson commented to As a family we’d always go to Eagles games and I’d just be watching Nic Nat. He just stands out heaps with the way he gets around the ground and takes big marks – that’s something I’d love to do one day and get to that level.3

Focusing purely on football Jackson significantly improved throughout 2019, impressing with his leap to win hit-outs and athleticism to have an impact around the ground more like an extra midfielder than a ruckman.  

At the 2019 NAB AFL Under-18 National Championships Jackson played all four games for Western Australia, averaging 4.3 kicks, 10.3 handballs, 2.3 marks, 36.8 hitouts and 9.5 hitouts to advantage per game whilst having a disposal efficiency of 72.4%. Jackson was listed in Western Australia’s best players in all four games to play an important role In Western Australia winning the national title. Jackson was recognised for his outstanding Under 18 National Championships with selection in the 2019 AFL Under 18 All-Australian team as the ruckman, he was joined in the team by five Western Australian teammates – Deven Robertson (centre and the captain), Elijiah Taylor (centre half-forward), Liam Henry (forward pocket), Jeremy Sharp and Trent Rivers (both named on the interchange).

Luke Jackson (number 32) standing in Western Australia’s team huddle next to Deven Robertson (number 10) during a game against Victoria Country at Marvel Stadium on 3 July 2019 at the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships

The profile for Jackson in AFL Record Season Guide 2020 said “With a strong basketball background, Jackson is a gifted ball-winner with a natural leap. He played like an extra on-baller during Western Australia’s successful NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships campaign, finishing second in the Larke Medal (behind WA teammate Robertson). Often compared with Collingwood star Brodie Grundy. Jackson looks a fantastic prospect who could start his career in the forward line.”4

During the 2019 WAFL season Jackson played eight games for East Fremantle’s Colts team, he had more than 23 hitouts in every game and at least 16 disposals in each of his last seven games of the season.

The profile for Jackson in AFL Prospectus 2020 said “Jackson was the standout ruckman from the 2019 Draft Class, ranking fourth at the 2019 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships for AFL Player Rating points. Jackson averaged 11 contested possessions per game, with no other ruckman averaging more than five. He was the top-ranked player in the WAFL Colts, leading all ruckmen for disposals, contested possessions, hitouts, hitouts to advantage, clearances and goals.”5 

Jackson playing for Western Australia against Vic Country at Marvel Stadium on 3 July 2019 at the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships

Drafted by Melbourne and debut 2020 AFL season

Throughout 2019 Jackson’s brilliant form resulted in people saying he might be ‘the drought breaker’ as the first ruckman selected in the top 10 for close to a decade. A month before the draft three clubs with top 10 picks – Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and Fremantle had been linked to Jackson.

The 2019 National AFL Draft was held at Marvel Stadium on 27 and 28 November. As expected the Gold Coast Suns selected Oakleigh Chargers midfield duo Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson with picks one and two respectively.

Melbourne had no hesitation in selecting Luke Jackson with the third pick overall which made him the first ruckman selected in the top 10 since Brisbane selected Billy Longer with pick eight in 2011. The last time that a ruckman was selected earlier in an AFL National draft than Jackson was when fellow West Australian Nic Naitanui was selected by the West Coast Eagles with pick 2 in 2008. At the time of being drafted at 18 years of age Jackson was 199 centimetres tall and weighed 91 kilograms.

Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn had been selected in the All-Australian team three times in four seasons from 2016 to 2019, the most of any ruckman during this period so some people within the football community were surprised that Melbourne decided to use pick 3 on another ruckman in Jackson.

After Melbourne selected Jackson with pick 3 the club’s National Recruiting Manager Jason Taylor commented to Melbourne Media on Jackson“He’s a competitive animal really. He’s a non-fuss competitor and I don’t think he’s going to be inhibited by the next level and the pressure that comes with it, so that adds to his package. He’s an excellent athlete – his endurance is probably his number one asset with the way he covers the ground throughout the game and follows up at ground level. He’s a very durable athlete, so very rarely is he off the ground. That will be one of his greatest strengths as well. We’re not putting any limits on where he can play. He’s played the majority of his football as a ruckman, he’s got good scope forward, but who knows – we’re just scratching the surface with him. It’s his competitiveness that is his number one thing.”6 

In his first interview with the Melbourne Football Club after being drafted Jackson commented “Now that I am going to Melbourne I couldn’t be more pumped and just can’t wait.” On moving interstate away from his family, West Australian Jackson commented on his family “They have been my biggest support through the juniors up till now and I am sure they will miss me and worry a little bit but I am sure they will always be with me and stuff like that.”

Other players recruited from East Fremantle at the 2019 NAB AFL Draft were Melbourne teammate Trent Rivers with pick 32, Jeremy Sharp by the Gold Coast with pick 27, Chad Warner by Sydney with pick 39 and Trey Ruscoe by Collingwood with pick 55. Melbourne’s three selections at the 2019 NAB AFL National Draft were bookended by East Fremantle duo Jackson and Rivers, with the Demons second pick they recruited small forward Kysaiah Pickett from SANFL club Woodville-West Torrens with pick 12.

Melbourne had five wins in 2019 to finish 17th out of 18 teams, two games ahead of wooden spooners Gold Coast and two games behind 16th placed Carlton. This was a dramatic fall from the 2018 season when Melbourne finished fifth at the end of the home and away season and won two finals to make a preliminary final.

Ruckman Max Gawn was appointed as Melbourne’s captain for the 2020 season, replacing midfielders Nathan Jones and Jack Viney who had co-captains for three seasons from 2017 to 2019. Jones was Melbourne’s sole captain in 2015 and 2016 and was co-captain with Jack Grimes in 2014. Simon Goodwin was in his fourth season as Melbourne’s head coach in 2020. From 1995 to 2010 Goodwin played 275 AFL games for the Adelaide Crows, he played in the club’s 1997 and 1998 premierships, won three club best and fairest awards was selected in the All-Australian team five times and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.   

In the week before the 2020 AFL home and away season commenced it was announced that due to the uncertainty regarding the coronavirus that the structure of the season and length of games would be condensed. During the 2020 home and away season each club played 17 games comprised of one game against each of the other 17 AFL clubs, a reduction from previous seasons when each team played 22 games across 23 rounds. The length of quarters was reduced from 20 minutes plus time-on to 16 minutes plus time-on to enable a shorter break between games if required.

Round 1 of the 2020 season was played as scheduled from March 19 to 22, however crowds weren’t allowed in Victoria and with the number of COVID-19 cases escalating rapidly and the Australian Government imposing travel restrictions the AFL season was paused for just under three months.     

Whilst the 2020 season was paused Jackson and Melbourne teammate Trent Rivers both headed home to Perth and were able to train together. After being named an emergency for Melbourne’s Round 1, 2020 game Jackson was told at training in the lead-up to Round 2 that he would be making his AFL debut against Carlton at Marvel Stadium on Saturday 13 June, fellow 2019 draftee Rivers was also making his AFL debut. On making his AFL debut with Rivers Jackson told the Inside Melbourne podcast “Yeah, really excited, I played under 14’s and up with Trent so to be able to debut together (is) pretty special (Rivers nods in agreement).” On AFL debut at 18 years of age Jackson had four kicks, three handballs, one mark and five contested possessions in Melbourne’s one point victory against Carlton.

Melbourne had the bye in Round 3 and Jackson was demoted in Round 4, being named an emergency for three consecutive games. After Round 5 in early July all 10 Victorian AFL clubs entered hubs outside Victoria due to COVID-19.

In Round 7 Jackson returned to Melbourne’s AFL team against Hawthorn and had five kicks, nine handballs, three marks, and a goal assist. At the 22 minute mark of the third quarter Jackson kicked his first AFL goal, receiving a handball from Sam Weideman and ran in to kick an open goal from the goalsquare.

Playing predominantly as a forward and having some bursts in the ruck Jackson received a Rising Star nomination for his Round 10 performance against Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, having four kicks, four handballs, two marks, 14 hitouts, took two contested marks and kicked two goals in the 51 point victory. From 2017 to 2019 Melbourne didn’t have any Rising Star nominees, with the club’s previous nomination before Jackson being in 2016. Melbourne’s four Rising Star nominees in 2016 were Clayton Oliver (Round 1), James Harmes (Round 7), Christian Petracca (Round 9) and Oscar McDonald (Round 21). 

Against North Melbourne in Round 11 at the Adelaide Oval Jackson injured his hamstring which ended a sequence of five consecutive AFL games from Round 7 onwards. Jackson didn’t play for the rest of the season but was named an emergency for Melbourne’s final game in Round 18.

After Round 9 Melbourne were 15th on the ladder with three wins and five losses. The Demons finished strongly to win six of their last nine games, however they fell just short of making the finals. Melbourne finished ninth on the ladder in 2020 with nine wins and eight losses, two premiership points behind eighth placed Collingwood, and eight premiership points plus percentage ahead of 11th placed Carlton. In his debut AFL season Jackson played six games and averaged 3.2 kicks, 5.5 handballs, 1.5 marks, 4.8 hitouts and 0.5 goals per game.  

On his experiences living in hubs during the 2020 AFL season Jackson told The Footy Yarn podcast in November 2020 “I loved it, you were around all the boys and coaches everyday so you can use them every day to get better and you get to know them better as well. I formed heaps of strong relationships over there and I will definitely never forget my first year, that’s for sure.”  

In 2021 Jackson cements his place in Melbourne’s team and wins the AFL Rising Star Award

In Round 1, 2021 Jackson played in the AFL for Melbourne and he was able to build some continuity at AFL level early in the season. Melbourne started the season superbly to win their first five games of the season to be second on the ladder, behind the Western Bulldogs on percentage.

Luke Jackson about to kick downfield for Melbourne in Round 4, 2021 at the MCG against Geelong on 11 April, 2021

On April 24 Melbourne played reigning premiers Richmond in a Round 6 Anzac Day Eve game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in three-time Melbourne best and fairest winner Nathan Jones’ 300th AFL game. 21 minutes into the second quarter Melbourne led by 11 points, Jackson kicked the next two goals of the game, the last goal of the first half and the first goal of the second half to extend Melbourne’s lead to 23 points. Melbourne were never challenged from that point on, going on to win by 34 points. Jackson had a career-high 18 disposals comprised of five kicks and 13 handballs, he also had five marks, 12 hitouts, took two contested marks and kicked two goals – ranked equal second for the game.   

Luke Jackson celebrating with Melbourne teammates after their Round 6 2021 Anzac Day Eve victory against Richmond

At Bellerive Oval against North Melbourne in Round 7 Jackson set a new career-high with 22 disposals comprised of six kicks and a team-high 16 handballs, he also had seven hitouts, seven contested possessions, a goal assist and kicked a goal in the 30 point victory. For his brilliant game against North Melbourne Jackson received the second Rising Star nomination of his career and polled one vote in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award. 

Due to a fractured finger which required minor surgery Jackson missed Round 9 against Carlton, it was the only game he missed during the 2021 home and away season.

Demons captain Max Gawn commented to in June 2021 on Jackson, saying “I don’t know many 19-year-old rucks who have had as much of an impact – probably Brodie Grundy, he came on to the scene pretty quickly. I couldn’t imagine myself playing that sort of football when I was his age. He’s got a long way to go, but you can see what he brings, that athleticism, that follow-up, being able to get the ball going forward for us.”7

On Road to the Draft podcast in August 2021 Cal Twomey asked Melbourne Recruiting Manager Jason Taylor “Luke Jackson is the favourite to win the NAB AFL Rising Star, his actual selection, there were plenty of clubs coming for that pick (pick 3) you guys held firm, what made you so sure on Luke at that point and how vindicated does the last couple of years make you feel and his form. What would it mean for the Dees to get a potential NAB AFL Rising Star winner?” Taylor responded “It is always great for the footy club, it is also great for the individual. I was thinking about it the other day, because you sit there and you watch a player so much live over that draft year that it is almost a mirror image his progression of that year (2019) now at AFL level which we are seeing before our eyes now (in 2021), so that is real credit to Luke at 19 and the position he plays, the growth that he has shown in a short period of time. He is just a unique player that doesn’t come along very often, as in answering the part of the question around the draft year, that’s why we were so keen hang on to that pick. He is an imposing athlete with many different facets to1 his game so it was just too tantalising to give that pick away.”

In the 98 point Round 20 victory against Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium Jackson kicked four goals to set the equal game-high in this category along with Demons teammate Ben Brown, had six kicks, 11 handballs, 13 hit-outs, eight contested possessions and polled three votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award.

Since joining Melbourne Jackson has done considerable work in the gym, increasing his weight from 91 kilograms when he was drafted to 99 kilograms in August 2021, improving his strength which has made it easier to compete in the ruck and as a key forward.

Melbourne locked in a top four spot at the end of the home and away season with a nine point victory in a Monday night Round 21 game against West Coast at Optus Stadium. Jackson polled four votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award – ranked third for the game for a performance in which he had eight kicks, 15 handballs, six marks, an equal game-high three contested marks and 11 contested possessions – ranked second for Melbourne behind Clayton Oliver (21). 

At the 18 minute mark of the third quarter Melbourne trailed Geelong by 44 points in their Round 23 encounter at GMHBA Stadium. From that point on Melbourne kicked eight unanswered goals to win by four points with a Max Gawn set-shot goal after the siren securing them the victory and the minor premiership. It was the Demon’s first minor premiership since 1964, the last season that Melbourne won the premiership.

Melbourne finished on top of the ladder at the end of the 2021 home and away season with 17 wins, one draw and four losses to finish two premiership points ahead of second placed Port Adelaide. Geelong finished third with 16 wins and the three teams from fourth to sixth all had 15 wins being in ladder order Brisbane, Western Bulldogs and Sydney.

The rules for the AFL’s NAB Rising Star Award are that “After each round of home and away games, a player is nominated and at the end of the season a panel of experts selects the winner. The winner must be under the age of 21 at January 1 of that year, must not have played more than 10 games to the start of that season and must not have been suspended by the AFL or State League tribunals during the season.”8

At the AFL Awards on Thursday 26 August Jackson was a convincing winner of the leauge’s 2021 Rising Star Award, polling 51 votes to finish ahead of GWS Giants midfielder Tom Green (38 votes) and Port Adelaide key forward Mitch Georgiades (28 votes). The top five was completed by Sydney Swans duo Justin McInerney (13 votes) and first-year player Errol Gulden (11 votes). 11 judges allocated Rising Star votes on a 5, 4, 3, 2 1 basis. As the winner of the Rising Star Award Jackson received the Ron Evans Medal and a $20,000 personal investment portfolio.

Luke Jackson handballing to Angus Brayshaw in Round 4, 2021 against Geelong at the MCG

Melbourne had four nominees for the AFL’s 2021 Rising Star Award, with Jackson being joined in this category by James Jordan (Round 8), Rivers (Round 11) and Jack Bowey (Round 22). Rivers and Jordan polled seven and five Rising Star votes respectively.

The AFL’s Rising Star Award commenced in 1993, Jackson became the third Melbourne player to win the award, joining defender Jared Rivers (2004) and key forward Jesse Hogan (2015) in this category.

Ruckman take longer to develop and have an impact at AFL level which results in them rarely featuring prominently in Rising Star voting. Jackson is only the second key forward/ruck to win the AFL’s Rising Star Award, following Adam Goodes winning the award in 1999 playing for the Sydney Swans. In 1999 Goodes played predominantly as a key forward until number one ruckman Greg Stafford injured his knee in Round 5 against North Melbourne. During Stafford’s time on the sidelines Goodes was mainly utilised as a ruckman. After Stafford returned to Sydney’s line-up in Round 17 Goodes rotated between playing as a key forward and a ruck.  Throughout the 2021 season Jackson has rotated between the key forward and ruck positions like Goodes did in the last third of his 1999 Rising Star winning season. For the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in 2016 an article was published on Milestones and Misses comprehensively covering the AFL career of two-time Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes. A link to this article is below:

At the 2021 Rising Star Press Conference Jackson commented on the improvement from his debut season to his second season, saying “Yeah I think it has changed just from spending more time with guys like Maxy, I have spent a lot of time with Maxy cos we play similar positions and it definitely helps when you spend a lot of time with those boys, I learn off them everyday, the coaches as well.” On specific things Max has taught him Jackson said “One that sticks out for me is probably the professionalism, he leads by his actions a lot more, to me, I look at his actions so to be able to watch him in person I take a lot from that and will keep doing it as it goes on.”

On the aspects of his game that he focusses on Jackson commented “For me I think it is just bringing the competitiveness side to my game and just bringing a big contest, that is what we talk about here, just bring your effort and your contest and the rest will look after itself. For me probably being aggressive in the air and also being aggressive on the ground as well.”   

Melbourne head coach Simon Goodwin commented on Jackson winning the Rising Star Award “To see the way Luke has developed over the last 18 months has been a great highlight for me, and it’s a credit to the environment and culture we have built at the football club to give our players the best chance to succeed. Luke is an outstanding person who has great values and is a very popular member of the playing group. This award is fantastic recognition for Luke and all the hard work he has put into performing at a high level on a consistent basis.”9

After winning the AFL’s 2021 Rising Star Award Jackson commented “I couldn’t have had the season I have without the support of Simon Goodwin, the entire coaching group and all my teammates who have helped to not only develop me as a person but also as a player. My family have also played a massive role throughout the and I would like to thank them for all their support and guidance they have given me.”10

The Melbourne Football Club got the Rising Star Award double in 2021 with Demons midfielder Tyla Hanks winning the AFLW’s Rising Star Award. To celebrate Hanks winning this award an article was published on Milestones and Misses comprehensively covering her career as a junior and at AFLW level with Melbourne. A link to this article on Hanks is below:

Melbourne were very strongly represented at the AFL’s 2021 Awards with a league-high five players  selected in the All-Australian team, ruckman Gawn for the fifth time, midfielders Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca for the second time each and key defenders Jake Lever and Steven May for the first time each. Gawn was named captain of the All-Australian team. Oliver won the 2021 AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of The Year Award, becoming the second Demons player in four seasons to win the award, following Gawn in 2018.  

In the first week of the 2021 finals Melbourne defeated Brisbane by 33 points in a qualifying final to earn a week off and advance to a preliminary final. During the win Jackson who doesn’t wear a mouthguard had his two front teeth knocked out in a marking contest. One of the teeth knocked out was a false tooth Jackson has had since primary school. After this accident Jackson has vowed to start wearing a mouthguard.  

Melbourne’s preliminary final will be at Optus Stadium against Geelong on Friday night September 10. The winner of this game will progress to the 2021 AFL Grand Final which will be played at Optus Stadium on Saturday 25 September. It will be the first time that the Grand Final has been played in Western Australia in VFL/AFL history.  

In 2021 Jackson has played 22 of Melbourne’s 23 games up to and including the qualifying final, only missing Round 9 against Carlton with a hand injury. Jackson has averaged 4.5 kicks, 8.4 handballs, 3.1 marks, 6.5 contested possessions, 10.3 hitouts and 0.68 goals per game. In 2021 Jackson ranks fifth at Melbourne for total contested marks, sixth for marks inside 50, equal sixth for goals, second for hitouts behind Gawn, seventh for clearances, eighth for contested possessions and equal eighth for one percenters. During 2021 10 Melbourne players have played all 23 AFL games, Jackson’s two closest mates at the Melbourne Football Club – fellow 2019 draftees Rivers and Pickett are both in this category. Jackson is one of four Demons players that have played 22 games. In their first 23 games of the 2021 season 18 Melbourne players have played at least 19 games.

Luke Jackson contesting a centre hitout against Richmond’s Toby Nankervis in the Round 6, 2021 Anzac Day Eve game

Jackson’s development in his second AFL season meant that he was able to spend more time in the ruck which enabled number one ruck Max Gawn to spend more time in the forward line and made the Melbourne midfield less predictable with Gawn and Jackson able to share ruck duties. After only kicking one goal in 2020 Gawn kicked 11 goals in 2021.

After a brilliant junior football career Jackson has progressed rapidly in his first two seasons at AFL level to perform an important role for Melbourne as a key forward/ruck. With his mixture of athleticism, leap, ability to impact the scoreboard, win hit-outs and competitiveness Luke Jackson is a deserving winner of the AFL’s 2021 Rising Star Award and is set to continue on an upward trajectory.  

Articles and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777



2 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number-cruncher for season 2019, 14th Edition, page 20


4Australian Football League, AFL Record Season Guide 2020, page 224

5 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number-cruncher for season 2020, 15th Edition, page 237



8Australian Football League, AFL Record Season Guide 2021, page 641



Milestones and Misses

Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey, such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.

A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below:

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