Monday, 6 September, 2010

Northern Territory Thunder excitement machine Zephi Skinner has underlined his enormous AFL potential by posting a runaway win in the 2010 QAFL Rising Star Award.

Having flown from Darwin to Brisbane to attend tonight’s QAFL Grogan Medal and Awards Presentation Dinner at the Gabba, he was feted by the assembled football family of Queensland and the Northern Territory as he chases a possible AFL career.

The 21-year-old half forward polled 39 votes to beat Ladbrador’s Todd Grayson (19), Morningside ruckman Tom Hickey (18) and a three-way tie for third between Broadbeach’s Queensland U18 captain Joel Wilkinson, Morningside defender Tom Bell and Mt.Gravatt ruckman David Hill (17).

His Rising Star win comes after the Thunder filled three of the top 10 placings in the corresponding award last year in their first season in the QAFL, with Troy Taylor (2nd), Brad Palipuaminni (3rd) and Damien Roe (6th) finishing behind Redland winner James Charlesworth.

Skinner, attracting a lot of interest among AFL talent scouts as he looks to become the first player named ‘Zephi’ to play AFL football, is the seventh winner of what has become a most prestigious award, and an AFL springboard for a string of young players.

St.Kilda defender Sam Gilbert has been the shining light after winning the QAFL Rising Star Award at Southport in 2005, while 2006 winner and ex-Morningside midfielder David Armitage is also at St.Kilda, and 2008 winner and ex-Mt.Gravatt wingman Rohan Bail is an emerging AFL star at Melbourne.

Former Western Magpies utility Marty Pask, who played eight AFL games off the rookie list with the Brisbane Lions, was the inaugural QAFL Rising Star in 2004.
Other winners have been Labrador’s Mathew Clarke (2007) and Charlesworth (2009).

Voting was done on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis from 18 weekly nominations by 12 well-credentialed QAFL identities and AFL recruiting scouts on their potential to play at AFL level, and performance at State and QAFL level.

Skinner earned five five-vote ratings and votes from 10 different judges.

Bell, a Queensland representative at U18 and U21 level this year and a Panthers standout through the first two weeks of the finals, was the only other player to poll maximum votes more than once. He was rated the No.1 choice by two judges.

Skinner’s win came as QAFL Football Operations Manager and State Chairman of Selectors Martin King revealed the NT Thunder ace would have played in the Open Queensland side against Tasmania in June but for injury.

Nominated for Rising Star award in Round 5, Skinner clinched it with an outstanding finish to the season, highlighted by a standout performance as the Thunder upset minor premiers Labrador at Gardens Oval in Darwin in Round 17.

He was also a three-goal standout in their beaten finals side against Mt.Gravatt last Sunday week.

He kicked 13 goals in the last six games of the year to finish with 25 goals in 16 games to rank second on the NT goal-kicking list behind Hughson Medal runner-up Darren Ewing in an outstanding first season in the Brisbane-based QAFL State League.

Skinner, who trained with the Western Bulldogs prior to the 2010 AFL Rookie Draft, is from the remote Kimberley Aboriginal Community called Nookanbah, located 500km inland between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing in WA.

He was recruited by the Thunder from the Noonkanbah Blues after having previously played with the Claremont Colts in the WA Football League in 2007-08 before returning to his home community.  

He played 11 games with Nightcliff Tigers in the 2009-10 NTFL competition and committed to the NT Thunder for the 2010 QAFL season as he eyed a chance to push his AFL draft claims.

Top 10 vote-getters in the 2010 QAFL Rising Star Award were:

Zephi Skinner (NT) 39, Todd Grayson (Labrador) 19, Tom Hickey (Morningside) 18, David Hill (Mt.Gravatt), Tom Bell (Morningside), Joel Wilkinson (Broadbeach) 17, Nathan Reid (Mt.Gravatt) 13, Damien Steven (Mt.Gravatt) 9, Nick Stockdale (Labrador), Amua Pirika (Mt.Gravatt) 7.

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