Please note – this article is based on performances prior to Round 15. Thanks.



Welcome back to the post-bye round edition of the ruckman rankings! The last three rounds have given us an interesting look into how teams are setting up their big men leading into the run home, while some make their move on the ruck of the year leader board. Let’s get straight into it.



For the second article in a row, Nic Naitanui claims the top gong off the back off a super impressive run of form. His time on ground has increased over the past two weeks, averaging 73.5% in this time, compared to his 67% for the year, highlighting his importance in a previously undermanned West Coast side. In his last two games, he has averaged 32 hitouts (14 to advantage), 17.5 disposals (13 contested), four inside 50s, 1.5 contested marks and seven clearances, including a game-high nine clearances in Round 12 against Carlton and an equal game-high 15 contested possessions against Richmond. As the troops return, hopefully Nic Nat’s workload is also increased to bolster the Eagles’ charge into the finals.



Fresh off a two-year contract extension, Sean Darcy is super unlucky to come second. Comfortably the AFL’s best young ruckman, he has put his injury woes behind him to string together a career-best year, accentuated by his last two performances. Against the Dogs in Round 12, Darcy experienced a hamstring strain late in the game, but in just 62% game time, he managed to amass 36 hitouts (nine to advantage), 13 disposals (nine contested), six marks (three contested) and six score involvements. He pulled up well the following round to face Zac Smith and dominated, racking up 40 hitouts (10 to advantage), 17 disposals (13 contested), seven score involvements, seven clearances, six tackles, five marks, and a goal to be one of Freo’s best players for the day. He faces the returning Brodie Grundy this week in what will be a good test for the young star.

After receiving a solitary vote in the first batch of votes and looking like he would never trouble the leader board again, Todd Goldstein roared back into form in North’s two games down in the Apple Isle. He was incredibly solid against GWS’s formidable duo of Mumford and Flynn, posting 29 hitouts (11 to advantage), 14 disposals, 18 pressure acts, six marks (one contested) and kicked a goal. Opposed against McInerney a week later, Goldy racked up an astounding 53 hitouts. But what blew my mind, and I had to triple check this one, was that none of these were deemed as advantageous, placing the effectiveness of Goldy’s ruck work into question.

Reilly O’Brien continues his polarising year of hot and cold patches, putting together a nice couple of games. He had a juicy matchup against the Grundy-less Magpies and was strong, with 27 hitouts (seven to advantage), 19 disposals (12 contested), five intercept possessions, and clunked seven marks, including a game-high five contested marks. He had a tougher opponent the following game in Paddy Ryder, but held his own, collating 30 hitouts (nine to advantage), 16 disposals, six inside 50s, three rebound 50s, and eight clearances, including a game-high three centre clearances as he propelled the Crows’ miraculous comeback over the Saints.

Max Gawn had one of his quieter fortnights by his lofty standards but still manages to find himself in the votes for this edition, mostly thanks to his prolific performance against Brisbane in round 12. He set the tone early in the game by roving a spillage in the forward 50 and snapped a sensational goal on his left in the first quarter and finished with 31 hitouts (nine to advantage), 17 disposals (11 contested), six score involvements, two contested marks, four clearances and four tackles. Unfortunately, he did not face the injured Brodie Grundy in the Queen’s Birthday clash to spark debate among media and punters alike as to who the best ruckman is in the AFL. Luckily that’s my job and I won’t get scrutinised for that. But he was surprisingly well held by Max Lynch, with Lynch beating Gawn in the hitouts department (23 to 20). Gawn however managed to wrestle back momentum and did his thing around the ground in the second half, finishing with a game-high five contested marks from eight marks in total, 19 disposals (10 contested), five tackles, and kicked another goal.


So, the leader board now sits at:

  1. Max Gawn – 26
  2. Brodie Grundy/Darcy Cameron – 22
  3. Nic Naitanui – 17
  4. Sean Darcy – 11
  5. Reilly O’Brien – 8


And the rest:

  1. Marc Pittonet – 5
  2. Todd Goldstein – 4
  3. Oscar McInerney – 3
  4. Jarrod Witts, Paddy Ryder/Rowan Marshall, Toby Nankervis, Peter Ladhams- 2
  5. Shane Mumford – 1


Grundy’s injury has brought him right back to the field, whilst Gawn has made the most of Grundy’s absence. Given NicNat’s recent form, the title is now a three-horse race, with Darcy a smoky but most definitely the fourth-best ruckman in the competition behind the big three.


Now back to the overall rankings:


  1. Nic Naitanui (+1)


  1. Max Gawn (-1)


  1. Sean Darcy (+4)


  1. Reilly O’Brien (+1)


  1. Paddy Ryder (-1)

Ryder continues to get the job done for the struggling Saints, averaging a healthy 31 hitouts in his last two games, but not many of them to advantage, recording just seven and two effective hitouts in these games. He put in a workmanlike effort around the ground against the Swans, recording 16 disposals (11 contested), three contested marks and four clearances. Rookie Paul Hunter returned to the side and split the ruck duties evenly with Ryder, with Ryder attending 50 ruck contests to Hunter’s 42. Hunter was energetic around the contest, laying five tackles and recording 18 pressure acts. Together, they combined for 45 hitouts but only three of them to advantage.


  1. Scott Lycett/ Peter Ladhams (-)

Ladhams was once again firm in the solo ruck role for the Power against the Cats, accumulating 29 hitouts (nine to advantage), 17 disposals (10 contested), five score involvements and four clearances. He retained his position in the side upon Scott Lycett’s return as the duo split ruck duties, with great effect against the Suns. Lycett had a strong return with 22 hitouts (nine to advantage), 17 disposals (13 contested) and kicked a goal, whilst Ladhams kept on keeping on with 14 hitouts, 15 disposals (11 contested), three contested marks and six tackles.


  1. Oscar McInerney (+1)

The Big O is just getting better as the season goes on. Whilst comfortably beaten in the air by Gawn, he was strong around the contest with 18 hitouts (seven to advantage), eight disposals (all contested), two marks (both contested) and looked dangerous from inside 50 stoppages. Furthermore, despite conceding 58 hitouts to Goldstein, he was still one of Brisbane’s best for the game, recording 33 hitouts of his own (and eight to advantage, compared to Goldy’s donut), seven clearances, and four inside 50s.


  1. Todd Goldstein (+3)


  1. Jon Ceglar/ Ben McEvoy (+1)

Jon Ceglar was a late in for rookie Ned Reeves in round 12 and well and truly made the most of this opportunity, putting together one of the best games of his career to date. This performance included 35 hitouts (seven to advantage), 20 disposals (19 contested, game high), two contested marks, 11 clearances (game and career high), four tackles, and capped it off with a goal. His counterpart McEvoy attend a surprising 45 less ruck contests but was able to impact forward of centre, finishing with 13 hitouts, 14 disposals, 18 pressure acts, five score involvements, five tackles (including three inside 50), seven marks (including a game high five contested marks), and kicked a goal, in what would’ve made ruck coach Damian Monkorst a very happy man. However, they were brought back down to earth by the returning Bombers talisman Sam Draper a week later, limiting Ceglar and McEvoy to just 37 hitouts (nine to advantage) between them as they split the ruck duties more evenly this game (Ceglar 38 ruck contests to McEvoy’s 40). While well beaten in the air, they were strong around the contest, collecting 10 contested possessions each, with Ceglar having four intercept possessions and two contested marks, while McEvoy applied the pressure with four tackles and 15 pressure acts.


  1. Tom Hickey / Joel Amartey (+2)

While not reaching the astronomical highs of earlier this year, Hickey has been quietly going about his business as the Swans have found another reliable key forward/second ruckman in Amartey. Hickey put in a credible performance against Paddy Ryder, racking up 16 hitouts (nine to advantage), 21 disposals (14 contested), five intercepts, seven clearances, five inside 50s, five score involvements, and five marks, in what was a plausible all-round performance. Amartey did enough to keep the likes of Sinclair and McLean out of the side, with his athleticism and clean hands-on show, collecting nine hitouts himself and an equal game high three contested marks from six marks. Hickey was a little quieter against the Hawks despite posting 26 hitouts (nine to advantage) and 15 disposals, (nine contested), but provided the pressure with 19 pressure acts whilst Amartey slotted two nice long-range goals from outside 50 with much ease.


  1. Mabior Chol / Callum Coleman Jones (-2)

Richmond’s new ruck combination have looked dangerous in the absence of regular ruckman Toby Nankervis. Speaking of second tier ruckman having career best games, Chol put on a sensational display against the Bombers in the Dreamtime game, gathering 19 hitouts (five to advantage), a career high 19 disposals (10 contested), a game high nine intercept possessions, six marks (two contested) and six inside 50s. A performance like this makes him incredibly difficult to leave out once the likes of Nankervis and Lynch return, as the Tigers look to play a taller set up on the run home. He was ably supported by youngster Coleman-Jones who looked comfortable in Lynch’s role, kicking two goals, and having 10 hitouts himself. Chol however did understandably struggle a week later against Nic Naitanui, who restricted him to just 14 hitouts and seven disposals but was still able to provide a spark in the middle, laying seven tackles and had four clearances to his name.


  1. Andrew Phillips / Sam Draper (+6)

I’ve been rather stiff on Phillips and called for an improved performance for the Dreamtime game, and he did not let me down. Keen to make up for his poor effort against Naitanui, Phillips finished with 25 hitouts (eight to advantage), 10 disposals, six marks (two contested), 18 pressure acts, and a goal. In round 13, Phillips was unluckily omitted for returning cult hero Draper for his third game of the season. Draper looked like a beast out there, expelling all the energy bundled up inside him for the last few months as he took it out on Ceglar and McEvoy. Providing constant hustle and bravado all game, he was a constant force at stoppages, clunking four contested marks from six marks as the Hawks played their weekly game of kick it to the opposition ruckman down the line. This, to go with 18 hitouts (nine to advantage), 14 contested possessions, nine clearances, seven intercepts, and five score involvements was a great return game from the young ruckman and let’s hope for more the same to come.


  1. Shane Mumford / Matt Flynn / Kieran Briggs

The ruckman rollercoaster ride at GWS just makes you think what happens when Braydon Preuss is fit and how he effects the current combination. But focusing on the present, firstly, Mumford and Flynn played their third game together against North with Mumford surprisingly taking most of the ruck contests as Flynn played predominantly as a tall forward. Mumford put in a standard performance, finishing with 23 hitouts (nine to advantage), seven disposals (all contested), five clearances and four tackles, whilst Flynn proved that his move forward was no outlier, kicking two goals and clunking six marks, including a game high four contested marks and five marks inside 50. Mumford was managed a week later as Briggs returned to the side, as Flynn and Briggs split the ruck duties evenly against Pittonet in what was a fair battle. Together, they combined for 33 hitouts (11 to advantage), 16 disposals (15 contested), nine tackles and four contested marks.


  1. Marc Pittonet / Tom de Koning (-1)

Coinciding with the Blues’ on field failures, their ruck department keep slipping off the back of some average performances. Pittonet was easily subdued by Naitanui, restricting him to just 13 hitouts and 12 disposals, and was wasteful on the scoreboard, kicking two behinds. He responded against the Giants in a much-improved game, finishing with 27 hitouts (12 to advantage), 12 disposals, five marks, and was able to impact forward of centre this time with a goal and five score involvements. De Koning was also serviceable with 10 hitouts of his own to go with a goal.


  1. Marc Blicavs / Esava Ratugolea (-)

It appears that while Geelong have achieved the ideal three prong forward attack, they’ve also subtly formed the first unofficial three-man ruck set up of 2021. Footy fans have recognised Tom Hawkins’ ability to rove off his own ruck work in the forward 50 and kick dangerous goals, and he has done this more than ever in previous weeks. Looking at the ruck contest split over the last two games:


Round 13 Round 14
Blicavs 45 51
Ratugolea 29 37
Hawkins 17 (four goals) 19 (one goal)


This has worked wonders for the Cats as they have registered victories in this period. Blicavs keeps working hard around the ground, despite being well beaten in the air. Over the last two weeks he has averaged 24 hitouts (4.5 to advantage), 18 disposals (13 contested), six clearances and two contested marks. Despite attending 30 ruck contests less than Ratugolea, Hawkins only has six hitouts less than him and draws even in hitouts to advantage (four apiece). But Ratugolea is not to be discredited, impacting Geelong’s forward structure with a game high two goal assists against Port and kicking a goal against the Dogs.


  1. Tim English / Stefan Martin (-1)

The Dogs ruck merry-go-round continued, first off with English and Martin in an unconvincing performance against Sean Darcy. They were well beaten in the air, combining for just 25 hitouts (three to advantage), with English the more impactful big man, contributing with 11 disposals, six marks, and five tackles. With Martin doing his AC joint that game, English took the solo reigns and put together a much stronger performance against the aforementioned Cats triple threat, finishing with 29 hitouts (13 to advantage), four tackles, and four intercepts.


  1. Max Lynch / Darcy Cameron (NEW)

Grundy’s replacements did not do him much justice as Collingwood’s ranking slumped to an all-time low of 17th. In a two-game stretch against some challenging ruckman in O’Brien and Gawn, Lynch provided a solid frame as Collingwood surprisingly recorded wins in his period. Against ROB, Lynch was modest with 18 hitouts and eight disposals, whilst Cameron played second ruckman slash key forward, picking up eight hitouts himself and two contested marks. In what looked like a daunting task against Gawn on Queen’s Birthday, Lynch held his body position well and matched Gawn in hitouts (23-20 in Lynch’s favour) and collected 15 disposals and six score involvements, whilst Cameron slotted four goals to go with three contested marks and five tackles in a memorable win for the Pies. With Grundy returning this week, don’t expect to see the Pies down here for much longer.


  1. Zac Smith (-)

Journeyman Smith continues to string together some solid performances but is simply not doing enough to push himself up the rankings. Against Darcy and Lycett/Ladhams in the last two games, he averaged 19.5 hitouts (six to advantage), 10.5 disposals (8.5 contested) and four tackles as Gold Coast’s on field woes continue.


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