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Jake Lloyd wins Rising Star nod

SwansTV: Jake Lloyd a rising star Jake Lloyd reflects on being nominated as an AFL Rising Star for his efforts in round 21
Jake Lloyd of the Swans in action during the 2014 AFL Round 13 match between the Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide Power at the SCG, Sydney on June 14, 2014. (Photo: Anthony Pearse/AFL Media)
Jake Lloyd has played every Swans game since round five
Following a stand-out performance against St Kilda on Saturday, Sydney Swans midfielder Jake Lloyd has received the round 21 nomination for the AFL Rising Star Award.

The 20-year-old, who hails from Horsham in central Victoria, picked up 21 possessions, 10 marks, seven tackles and one goal against the Saints at the SCG on Saturday night, in what was one of his most complete performances for the year.

Speaking to SwansTV after learning of his Rising Star nod, Lloyd said he would never have earned the nomination if the club hadn’t shown faith in him over the last few months, having played 16 consecutive games since being promoted from the rookie list and making his debut in round five.

“I’m obviously pretty happy,” Lloyd said.

“The individual accolades are something I’ll probably look back on in the future and feel really proud of myself, but I guess I’m just grateful for the opportunity I was given earlier in the year.

“I wouldn’t be standing here if I wasn’t given that opportunity, so I’m just grateful for that.”

Following an impressive year with the Swans reserves in 2013, which saw him earn NEAFL Team of the Year selection, the rookie Swan carried his good form into this year’s pre-season program and early season matches.

Upon being elevated to the senior list in April, it didn’t take the second-year Swan long to make an impact, when he collected 29 possessions and a goal against the Brisbane Lions in round seven, in what was just his third senior match.

Since then, Lloyd has averaged over 14 possessions and two tackles per game, which has impressed senior coach John Longmire.

“Jake had been playing in our reserves for quite a while and working on some of the areas he needed to work on,” Longmire said.

“He’s always been an elite runner and ball getter and he’s improved the other aspects of his game and he’s gotten to the stage that he’s been able to come into the senior team and play on a really consistent basis.

“He’s able to play a number of different roles for us and it’s a good acknowledgement of his form to date that he’s been able to get a Rising Star nomination.”

While Lloyd has shown poise on the half-forward line, wing and midfield, the former North Ballarat under-18 has also demonstrated his ability to have an impact as the Swans’ substitute.

In clashes with Essendon and Port Adelaide, Lloyd picked up eight possessions after coming on late in both encounters, and also booted a timely goal against the Power to ice the match in round 20.

Longmire said Lloyd’s ability to play a number of roles, including the sub, was an impressive element of his development this season.

“He plays up forward, he plays wing, he can play inside, and he can play half-back, and as we have seen, he can come off the bench in the sub role and be able to get plenty of the ball as well,” he said.

“To be able to have those different strings to your bow like he’s got is very handy because we want players who are flexible and who can play a number of different roles, and he’s one of those.”

With just two regular season games remaining, including Sunday afternoon’s clash with the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, Lloyd has his sights set on playing his first final this September.

The young Swan said he couldn’t’ afford to rest on his laurels over the next fortnight, and would need to put his best foot forward to earn finals selection.

“It’s obviously very exciting to know that we’re going to be playing finals football,” Lloyd said.

“We have another tough game this week against the Bulldogs and for me it’s another opportunity to step up with a few players out and try and cement my spot.

“I’ve got two weeks to keep doing that and hopefully give myself the chance to play finals football.

“I just want to do each thing right, each week, and give myself the best opportunity.”

Lloyd joins Harry Cunningham (round 15) as the Sydney Swans players nominated for the AFL's Rising Star Award, the first time since 2003 (Adam Schneider and Lewis Roberts-Thomson) that the club has had two nominees in the same season.

Lloyd and Cunningham started their careers in Sydney on the rookie list, but have quickly carved out spots in a strong outfit – with Lloyd paying tribute to the Swans' leaders for fast-tracking their development.

"We've certainly got great leaders at the club and great coaching staff as well that really put a lot of time and effort into the younger guys and really demand a lot out of them," Lloyd said.

"Those guys are really driving us and wanting us to get the best out of ourselves."

After being overlooked in two national drafts, Lloyd doesn’t lack determination.

"Those setbacks certainly do hurt at the time but it just makes you want to prove to people that haven't shown faith in you at the start," he said.

"It's every kid's dream to play AFL football. I was always told to bide my time and play consistent football and if I was able to do that I would get an opportunity.

"The individual accolades are something that I'm pretty proud about but I'm just grateful for the opportunity I was given early in the year to be able to win this award."

- with afl.com.au - Travis King