Tom Williamson was unlucky to miss out on a Rising Star nomination this week, but can’t be too upset considering teammate Caleb Marchbank received the nod. The first year defender has been one of six debutants for the Blues this year, but despite criticism suggesting Carlton is handing unearned games of footy to younger players, Williamson has been a core part of the side’s defence since debuting in round three. He’s looked immediately comfortable at AFL level and the Blues seem to want the ball in his hands as often as possible.
Drafted from North Ballarat, Williamson slipped to pick 61 in the National Draft and the biggest criticisms he had as a junior focused on his ability to win contested footy in the midfield. Moving him to a half back flank however has played to his strengths. The young Blue is great at reading the ball in the air and has good core strength and closing speed. His ball use was also questioned, but Williamson has gone at 73.4 per cent so far this year while averaging 16 disposals.
Williamson’s inclusion also frees up Sam Docherty to play a less vital defensive role which means he can do more damage on the counterattack. Kade Simpson has also had a slow start to 2017, but hasn’t been required to carry as much of the load because of players like Williamson and Harrison Macreadie who’ve stepped into the backline this year. Throw in Lachie Plowman, Ciaran Byrne and Marchbank and the Blues have virtually shaped their backline for the next 10 years.
The 18-year-old has all the makings of a solid Fantasy scorer as well. Carlton clearly see him as a rebounding half back in the future and considering Simpson is in the twilight of his career, Williamson may be groomed to fill the void. For now, he hasn’t set the world on fire, averaging 63 points, but the potential is there. Expect his scoring to climb slowly as the year goes on as it’s clear he’s established himself in Carlton’s weekly team. His average of three marks per game is probably where his improvement lies at the moment, but as a bench option he’s as solid as it gets. Of course, his price has already jumped a few times so if you don’t have him, you’ve probably missed the boat.
The Blues have a number of eligible players for the Rising Star Award and will probably receive a few nominations this year, but Williamson may just be the one that receives the stamp as the club’s best first year player this year if the first six rounds are anything to go by.