Welcome back to the fortnightly Mongrel ruck rankings! We are getting to the pointy end of the season now, as the ruckman diarchy faces some pressure from willing opposition. Let’s get straight into it.
RUCKMAN OF THE FORTNIGHT
This man is an absolute monster, and for the second column on the trot, Sean Darcy once again tops the table for ruckman of the fortnight. He was a brick wall for the Dockers against the Hawks, racking up a game-high nine intercepts, which included seven intercept marks and a game-high six contested marks. This, to go with 25 touches (15 contested), 26 hitouts (13 to advantage), six score involvements, and 486 metres gained, helped Fremantle dismantle the Hawks down in the Apple Isle. He was equally, if not more dominant against Geelong, despite sitting out most of the last quarter with a knee concern. He set the tone in the first quarter, amassing eight disposals (seven contested) at 100% efficiency, four clearances, and five hitouts to advantage. He finished with 37 hitouts (11 to advantage), 18 disposals, and eight clearances in just 66% game time. Injuries have plagued him in the past, but he has found a way to overcome them this season, as the Dockers are hoping he’ll be right for Round 19.
Leading the overall rankings and not letting anyone get in his way, Nic Naitanui continues to be the clearance beast that he is. Despite letting Goldstein slip away with two goals, Naitanui was the better big man on a night, gathering 37 hitouts (13 to advantage), a game-high 17 contested possessions from 20 disposals, two contested marks, and a game-high 10 clearances. His rivalry with Reilly O’Brien continued as the honours went to NicNat, who had 32 hitouts (12 to advantage), 11 disposals (all contested), six score involvements, and seven clearances. A dominant force on the day, his centre clearance work was the difference as the Eagles toppled the Crows on their home deck.
Despite not being as influential as he was a few weeks prior, Max Gawn and protégé Luke Jackson continue to get the job done for the Dees. Gawn’s attendance at ruck contests was back up to around 70% in the last fortnight, and this has resulted in an average of 29.5 hitouts (8.5 to advantage), 16.5 disposals (7.5 contested), five score involvements, and four clearances. He was rather wasteful against Port, going at 38% disposal efficiency and kicking just two behinds, and wasn’t able to have his usual impact against the Hawks as he has in the past, having two intercept marks.
After starting the year off like a house on fire he has dropped off a little of late, but Tom Hickey surprisingly receives his first batch of votes after a large fortnight at the office. In this time, he has collected 36 hitouts and 17 disposals in both games, while also averaging 11 hitouts to advantage and 9.5 contested possessions. He had seven score involvements against the Dogs, and was particularly influential against the Giants, kicking a goal to go with four clearances and four tackles, while the Amartey Party provided able support with 13 hitouts in this game.
Before I announce the final vote-getter, a shoutout goes to Oscar McInerney who is quietly going about his business. He held his own against the dangerous duo of Ryder and Marshall, finishing with 24 hitouts (seven to advantage), 16 disposals (10 contested) and six clearances, before collecting a round high 15 hitouts to advantage from 29 hitouts against another menacing pair in Nankervis and Chol, but was a little undisciplined, giving away six free kicks against.
Also unlucky is Brodie Grundy. The Collingwood superstar was huge against the Nankervis-less Tigers, particularly in the last quarter where he slotted a goal from the goal square to propel Collingwood’s comeback. He finished the game with a whopping 40 hitouts (11 to advantage), 22 disposals (eight contested), eight score involvements and five marks. In what would have been a blockbuster game against the Blues, Grundy was uncharacteristically quiet against de Koning and at times Jack Silvagni, who even won a few hitouts against Grundy. Despite this, he still posted modest numbers of 26 hitouts, 16 disposals (10 contested), two contested marks, and four inside 50s.
The final and well-deserved vote goes to veteran Todd Goldstein. It is well publicised by now that Goldy achieved the all-time VFL/AFL hitout record, needing just six hitouts against NicNat to surpass Aaron Sandilands’ record of 8,502 hitouts. Kudos to him. He finished the game with 31 hitouts (12 to advantage), 19 pressure acts, and two goals in an impressive display. He was also strong the following round against Draper and Wright, accumulating 37 hitouts (13 to advantage) and 15 disposals, and was supported by Tristan Xerri who brought some grunt and physicality to the contest.
So, the leader board now sits at:
- Max Gawn – 29
- Brodie Grundy – 26
- Nic Naitanui – 24
- Sean Darcy – 21
- Todd Goldstein – 7
And the rest:
- Marc Pittonet – 5
- Oscar McInerney – 3
- Jarrod Witts, Paddy Ryder/Rowan Marshall, Toby Nankervis, Peter Ladhams, Tom Hickey- 2
- Shane Mumford, Scott Lycett – 1
And then there were four. Despite the margin between him and first place, Darcy is well and truly in the hunt given his recent form as just five votes separate second and fourth.
Now back to the overall rolling rankings:
- Nic Naitanui (-)
- Max Gawn (-)
- Sean Darcy (+1)
- Brodie Grundy (-1)
5. Paddy Ryder / Rowan Marshall (+1)
It’s great to see the Saints first-class ruck combination string some consecutive games together as the Saints make a late-season charge. Together, they combined for 31 hitouts, 23 disposals, nine tackles and nine marks (four contested) against the Lions before the Saints crashed back to earth at Marvel. Despite the result not going their way, Marshall was one of the most influential players of the game, finishing with 16 hitouts, 19 disposals (11 contested), two goals, five tackles, six marks (including two intercept marks), seven score involvements, and five tackles, including a game-high four tackles inside 50, impressive for a big man. Ryder, himself, had his way in the air with 28 hitouts, limiting Lycett and Ladhams to just two hitouts to advantage between them, and kicking a goal himself.
- Reilly O’Brien (-1)
40 hitouts (15 to advantage) for ROB against young Draper in what was a dominant display in the air but was restricted to just 10 touches on the deck. Nic Nat had the better of ROB in their clash, losing the hitout clash 32-27, with only five to advantage, compared to Nic Nat’s 12. ROB was important for the Crows down back, however, grabbing seven intercepts, including a round-high five intercept marks and a game-high three contested marks.
- Oscar McInerney (+1)
- Todd Goldstein (+1)
- Scott Lycett (-2)
Lycett is a bit stiff to drop a few ranks, but those below him were clearly outperforming him. Regardless of how well he performs in the ruck, Lycett is a pressure maniac, averaging eight tackles and 22 pressure acts in his last two games, which is elite for a big man. Gawn limited Lycett to just 21 hitouts and 15 disposals, and while he recorded 23 hitouts a week later against Ryder and Marshall, he only had the one hitout to advantage. However, he was able to work around the ground, gathering 17 disposals, five intercepts, five score involvements, and six clearances. Peter Ladhams also returned to the side and had 10 hitouts, himself, but like Lycett, just one to advantage, to go with 12 disposals and five tackles.
- Tom Hickey (-)
- Shane Mumford / Matt Flynn (+1)
GWS’ last two games were the first games this year where they ran with a different solo ruck each game, Mumford against the Suns and Flynn against the Swans. Mumford had a big day out against a non-recognised ruckman in Chris Burgess, racking up a massive 53 hitouts (19 to advantage), seven disposals (all contested) and six tackles, in a vintage contested performance from Mummy. Flynn returned to the side against the Swans and was quiet, recording 22 hitouts (five to advantage), 12 disposals and four tackles. He was supported by Finlayson who had eight hitouts. The Giants face a mini ruck crisis this week with Flynn undergoing shoulder reconstruction, Briggs isolating, Preuss still injured and Mumford with a bad back.
- Jon Ceglar / Ned Reeves / Ben McEvoy (-1)
Ceglar and McEvoy were well restricted by youngster Sean Darcy, who limited them to just 32 hitouts (eight to advantage) and 24 disposals, while Darcy had 25 touches himself. However, they still combined for 12 marks, with Ceglar taking an important four intercept marks while McEvoy had three clearances in his limited ruck time. Rookie Ned Reeves returned to the side at the expense of Ceglar, an interesting decision by the Hawks coaching staff considering they were coming up against premier ruckman Max Gawn. But to the eye, Reeves looked comfortable against Gawn, using his height to overcome Gawn at stoppages, finishing with 19 hitouts but just one to advantage. McEvoy however was much more influential, having 14 hitouts himself (seven to advantage), 13 disposals (eight contested), four marks, and kicked a goal.
- Sam Draper / Peter Wright (-)
Wright attended just eight fewer ruck contests than Draper to be considered as a genuine second ruckman for the Bombers. While Draper doesn’t fill up the stats sheet as much as his peers, his aggression and brutality at the contest is second to none. Against the Crows, Draper had 17 hitouts (17 to advantage), six clearances and 10 disposals the highlight of which was a running bounce where he bolted away from the wing, leaving a handful of Crows players in his dust, then absolutely shanked it inside 50, epitomising the capabilities of a dangerous but young ruckman. Wright had seven hitouts and impacted the scoreboard with two goals and six score involvements. A week later against Goldstein, Draper was much more impactful, recording 19 hitouts (eight to advantage), seven score involvements and four clearances, while Wright had 10 hitouts and was parked more forward, clunking seven marks and kicking three goals.
- Toby Nankervis / Mabior Chol (+1)
These two would have been ranked higher if not for Chol’s poor showing against Grundy, posting just 17 hitouts and 11 disposals as Richmond’s ruck woes were once again exposed. Nankervis’ return could not have come at a more helpful time, against finals contenders in Brisbane. Nankervis’ game highlighted his importance to Richmond’s structure as a whole, freeing up to Chol to play as a dangerous key forward and back up ruck. Nank returned with 25 hitouts (six to advantage), four marks (three intercepts), four tackles, seven clearances and six score involvements. He also recorded game-highs in contested possessions (18), intercept possessions (10), centre clearances (four) and a round-high 22 disposals for ruckman. Chol, the beneficiary of Nankervis’ return, kicked a career-best four goals and was still able to chop out in the ruck, finishing with 12 hitouts, 10 disposals, six score involvements and four marks (two contested).
- Tim English (+3)
Some much-improved performances from English who continues to shoulder the ruck load in the absence of Stef Martin. Against the Swans, he worked extremely hard to cover a heap of territory at Marvel, accumulating 21 hitouts (eight to advantage), 22 disposals (10 contested), a goal, five intercepts, six score involvements, eight marks (which included three contested, three inside 50 and two intercepts) and six tackles, in a Grundy-esque performance. As previously mentioned, he won the battle against Chris Burgess and at times Caleb Graham, finishing with 37 hitouts (12 to advantage), six clearances, and slotted a goal.
- Chris Burgess (+2)
A sentence I was not expecting to write this year: swingman Chris Burgess has overtaken Zac Smith, who formerly played in a finals contending team, as Gold Coast’s number one ruckman. You love to see it. While Mumford raised the bat with his half century of hitouts against the Suns, Burgess got in on the fun too, gathering 38 hitouts (seven to advantage) of his own to go with 17 disposals, a goal, four marks (one contested), seven inside 50s, four tackles, and seven clearances, including a game-high four centre clearances. He was backed up by forward Sam Day who had 12 hitouts himself. He was well beaten by Tim English in the following fixture but still managed to have 24 hitouts (11 to advantage) and six score involvements.
- Tom de Koning (-3)
TDK has looked right at home as the Blues’ main ruckman in recent weeks. He was busy against the Cats, accumulating 14 hitouts, 16 disposals, six marks (including a team-high three contested marks), four tackles, and five intercepts. He held his own against premier ruckman Brodie Grundy and did not allow him to have his usual dominant game. TDK had his moments, turning over a kick inside defensive 50 to the Pies for an easy game, before converting one himself at the end in the last quarter. All up, he finished with 20 hitouts (nine to advantage), eight disposals, and had four tackles and four clearances.
- Rhys Stanley / Marc Blicavs (-4)
What was once the Cat’s blistering triple threat of Blicavs, Ratugolea and Hawkins has turned to mush with the return of Stanley. Whilst not correlating to Geelong’s win/loss record, poor performances in the ruck in recent weeks has seen them drop to the bottom of the table in the rankings. With Ratugolea stationed more forward due to the loss of Jeremy Cameron, Stanley has shouldered most of the ruck load with Blicavs in tandem. Against the Blues, they combined for just 22 hitouts (four to advantage) and 24 disposals, with Stanley racking up a game high five inside 50s to go with a goal and four marks. In the following game against the Dockers, they combined for 26 hitouts (10 to advantage). Stanley worked hard around the ground to finish with 16 disposals and five score involvements, while Blicavs had 12 touches and five marks.