Lewis Melican knows the value of hard work.

The emerging defender fought off a number of injury setbacks in his first two years at the Sydney Swans, including groin and back issues, to get his football to the level it is now.

And it is all paying off with Melican now an important member of the defensive contingent and the newest member of a select group on the honour roll.

The 20-year-old, from the small town of Birregurra in Victoria's south-west, was awarded the 2017 Rising Star award, following in the footsteps of Adam Goodes, Ryan O'Keefe, Kieren Jack, Dan Hannebery and Dane Rampe.

“It’s a massive honour,” Melican said in front of a packed room at last week's Club Champion Dinner.

“There’s obviously some great players I’ve been playing alongside who were lucky enough to get their first games this year.”

Melican continued backstage: “I’m absolutely stoked. At the start of the year I never would have thought I’d play a game, let alone win an award like this. It’s unbelievable.”

The recognition capped off a breakthrough season in which Melican, after debuting in Round 5, banked 17 games of solid senior football.

Only a niggling quad injury stood in the way of Melican featuring in the Swans' two finals matches.

But the softly-spoken defender told SwansTV that while he's still coming down to earth after his promising season, he knows there's plenty of hard work ahead of him.

Complacency, he says, will only hinder his progress.

"It gives me a platform but at the same time I’ve got a whole pre-season ahead of me,” Melican added.

"I’ve got to make sure I do the work again, that’s what got me to where I got this year.

"I can’t take anything for granted, I’ve got to get back into it and do all the work, so I’m able to able to have another (strong) year next year.”

Melican’s breakout season was rewarded in July with the defender signing a three-year contract extension, tying him to Sydney until at least the end of 2020.