Jewish 18-year-old North Melbourne Kangaroo player Harry Sheezel’s impressive debut AFL season was recognised in the highest possible way at the 2023 AFL Awards night on August 30, when he won the AFL’s Rising Star Award, earning 54 out of a maximum of 60 votes.
To top it off, the former AJAX Footy Club junior and Mount Scopus College graduate also won the AFLPA’s 2023 Best First Year Player award.
Remarkably, Sheezel was tasked at the beginning of the season, by Roos head coach Alastair Clarkson, to play in the unfamiliar position of half back, rather than his usual half forward spot he’d played in for AJAX, the Sandringham Dragons, and Vic Metro.
Taking hold of that new challenge with both hands, the 2022 AFL Draft number 3 pick averaged 27.0 disposals per game, and made the most disposals (622) by any player in their debut AFL season ever.
In his Rising Star award acceptance speech, in front of Clarkson, his parents, and the who’s who of the AFL, Sheezel thanked his family, and especially his parents, Dean and Lana, for all they’ve done to help him achieve what he has in the sport.
“From day one, they’ve done so much, and care so much for me.
“They’re so passionate about football as well, which makes it even better, because I kind of live it with them.
“The support they’ve shown to me, especially this year, has been incredible.”
In an AFL press conference this morning, Sheezel reflected, “I wasn’t too sure what to espect [in the half back role] at the start of the year, to be honest, but it worked out pretty well, and I love that role now – you get a lot of freedom back there.”
He said he also put his full trust in coach Alastair Clarkson putting him in the half back role, describing ‘Clarko’ as having “an unbelievable football brain”.
On receiving the award, Sheezel commented, “I think I had that belief and confidence earlier in the year, and the award was kind of a result of that”.
“Every week I’d just try and have that confidence that I belong at this level, and try to play my best every week, and so it was good to get recognised.
“I’m not too sure where I’ll play [on the field next season].
“But I’m definitely working on my leadership, and trying to drive the group.”