Welcome back to the fortnightly ruck rankings! There’s lots to break down following a massive last couple of games for the big men, especially those ranked higher up. We also see a new leader in the overall rankings as the top eight are shuffled around. Let’s get into it.
RUCKMAN OF THE FORTNIGHT
I could have had a multitude of names receiving the top gong, but the throne returns to last year’s All-Australian ruckman in Max Gawn. Faced with quite possibly the easiest of matchups for ruckman in the last two weeks, he went to town and did not look back. Round 19 presented the perfect game for Gawn, coming up against young Tim English in wet conditions. Gawn amassed round highs in hitouts (56) and hitouts to advantage (16), whilst also collecting 18 disposals (14 contested) and six clearances. His disposal was perhaps the only thing letting him down, going at 38% efficiency, due to the scrappy and contested nature of the game. He then faced a combination Zac Smith and Chris Burgess, with the returning Smith not affecting Gawn’s dominance whatsoever. Big Maximus finished with 31 hitouts (13 to advantage), two goals, 11 score involvements, 16 disposals, and five marks. Despite the ruck contest split being more even with Luke Jackson this round (48-36), Jackson still managed to kick a career-high four goals, to go with 17 disposals and 13 hitouts, in the best game of his career to date.
BEST OF THE REST
Coming up second best is a colossus who is putting together a very underrated season, and that is the ever-improving Oscar McInerney. The Big O is hitting a purple patch of late, with a few ripping statistical games elevating his rankings of late. Against the lowly duo of Chris Burgess and Caleb Graham, McInerney had 39 hitouts (15 to advantage), 18 disposals (16 contested), two contested marks, a round high 12 clearances and five inside 50s. He was a key driver of Brisbane’s comeback in the second half, using his aerial dominance to rip the ball out of the air and send it forward, to go with some elite deft taps. Whilst he wasn’t one of Brisbane’s best against the Hawks, going at just 23% disposal efficiency, his ruck work is not to go unnoticed. In what was a very hitout friendly game for ruckman, the Big O held his own against Ned Reeves and Ben McEvoy, collecting an equal round high 46 hitouts and a round high 20 hitouts to advantage. He also had an equal game-high 10 score involvements, as well as seven clearances and four tackles. He was deservedly one of few to hold his up high after a disappointing performance against the Hawks.
Finding his groove lately is Reilly O’Brien who looks to have finally recaptured his 2020 form. He was clearly one of the Crows’ best against the Hawks, gathering round highs in contested possessions (17), marks (seven), contested marks (four), and intercept marks (four), including a few important ones late. He also had 24 hitouts (eight to advantage), 23 disposals, 19 pressure acts, six intercept possessions and five clearances. Despite the Crows not getting up against the Dogs, ROB exploited the matchup against English, finishing with 44 hitouts (11 to advantage), 19 disposals (11 contested), six tackles, six intercepts, six marks, including a game high four contested marks and five intercept marks. His intercept marking has been incredible of late.
Brodie Grundy keeps grinding away, with his midfield work coming to the fore in recent weeks. In the last two weeks he has racked up 27 and 22 disposals respectively, both figures the highest or equal highest for the round. However, he only directed a total of nine hitouts to advantage in the last two games. He was influential early against the Power and Scott Lycett, recording 23 hitouts, 13 contested possessions, seven clearances (including a game high four centre clearances), eight score involvements, and was a little untidy with a game high 11 clangers. In the second bout against Nic Naitanui, both ruckman battled hard all day to finish in their team’s best players for the day. Grundy himself had 18 hitouts, a goal, six tackles, four clearances, and a round high 10 marks as he worked hard around the ground all day.
The last vote goes to the Saints big men in Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall. Despite the two giants not actually playing with each other in the last two rounds, consequently resulting in losses for the Saints, they each put up impressive individual performances to earn the final vote for the fortnight. In round 19, Ryder and back up ruckman Paul Hunter faced Nic Naitanui, and were able to somewhat limit his usual dominant output at the contest. Ryder was impressive with 27 hitouts (eight to advantage) to go with a goal and two marks (one contested), while Hunter had eight hitouts himself, seven disposals (all contested), five tackles, and a goal. With Ryder a late withdrawal and maybe not returning for the rest of the year, Rowan Marshall took hold of the main mantle as Hunter once again played second fiddle. The stars aligned early on for Marshall as Tom de Koning went down with injury, as Jack Silvagni, clearly a non-recognised ruckman, went into the ruck. Marshall made the most of this juicy matchup, having one of his career best statistical games to date. He finished with round highs in hitouts to advantage (16) and equal round highs in hitouts (46) and disposals (22), to go with 16 contested possessions, a goal, six score involvements, four marks, and five tackles. Hunter also had a nice game himself, recording 21 hitouts (six to advantage) and three marks.
So, a fair bit to take away from the high-end guns this week. Let’s look at the new leader board:
- Max Gawn – 34
- Brodie Grundy – 28
- Nic Naitanui – 24
- Sean Darcy – 21
- Todd Goldstein, Oscar McInerney – 7
And the rest:
- Marc Pittonet – 5
- Reilly O’Brien, Paddy Ryder/Rowan Marshall – 3
- Jarrod Witts, Toby Nankervis, Peter Ladhams, Tom Hickey- 2
- Shane Mumford, Scott Lycett – 1
Gawn takes an unassailable lead as recent movers, Nic Naitanui and Sean Darcy, were unable to impact the leader board this time around. Back to the overall rankings:
- Max Gawn (+1)
- Nic Naitanui (-1)
When it was reported last week that Nic Naitanui had taken the number one spot in the Official AFL Player Ratings, I thought to myself, I must be doing this job well, considering Naitanui was sitting on the top of my own rankings for the good part of the last couple of months. Although he has dropped to second, he is still putting up consistently impressive numbers, excelling in clearances (averaging nine in the last two weeks) and contested possessions (11.5). Against Ryder and Hunter, NicNat had 24 hitouts (10 to advantage) to go with 12 disposals, three marks (two contested) and five inside 50s Interestingly, All-Australian backman Jeremy McGovern played back up ruck and held his own, collecting nine hitouts from 15 ruck contests. His clearance work was phenomenal against the Pies, recording a round high ten clearances, to go with another 24 hitouts (nine to advantage), 17 disposals, and two marks, both inside 50.
- Brodie Grundy (+1)
- Sean Darcy (-1)
The inclusion of Lloyd Meek into Freo’s ruck setup has slightly diminished Darcy’s output, given that he is also battling a slight knee injury. Despite this, he continues to persevere and put together some solid games. Against the Swans, Darcy and Meek attended the same number of ruck contests, with Darcy gathering 22 hitouts (eight to advantage), while Meek had 17 (four to advantage). Darcy also had 19 disposals (10 contested), seven score involvements, five clearances, and six marks, including an equal game high two contested marks and an equal round high three marks inside 50. He was inaccurate in front of goal, finishing with 1.3, and this theme continued into the next round where he kicked another two behinds against the Tigers. In this game, he also had 18 hitouts (eight to advantage), 17 disposals (12 contested), six score involvements, and four marks, which were all contested. Meek attended 16 less ruck contests and had nine hitouts himself.
- Paddy Ryder / Rowan Marshall (-)
- Reilly O’Brien (-)
- Oscar McInerney (-)
- Todd Goldstein (-)
There is currently a fair bit of daylight between seventh and eighth position on the rankings. But Goldy continues to do no wrong, playing an impressive game in North’s thumping of the Blues. He posted 30 hitouts (14 to advantage), 15 disposals, a goal, and four marks, while backup ruckman Tristan Xerri had 11 hitouts (five to advantage) from 22 ruck contests. Goldy was one of North’s best against the Cats, finishing with 21 hitouts (eight to advantage), 12 disposals and five marks.
- Tom Hickey (+1)
Hickey has found his niche in the middle of the table along with Goldy and Lycett, who are finding it difficult to elevate themselves into the top eight ranks but continue to bash the door down. Hickey was one of the Swans’ best players against the Dockers, with his work rate a highlight. Stuffing the stats sheet, he gathered 21 hitouts (five to advantage), 18 disposals (10 contested), a goal, 17 pressure acts, three tackles (all inside 50), four marks, five clearances, and five inside 50s. He also battled hard in an even battle against Sam Draper, finishing with 24 hitouts (nine to advantage), 14 disposals, a goal, five score involvements, and another four marks.
- Scott Lycett / Peter Ladhams (-1)
Over the last two weeks, Lycett has been relatively consistent, averaging 23.5 hitouts (4.5 to advantage), 14 disposals (seven contested), four tackles, three marks (one intercept), and four clearances. I’ve included Ladhams due to a ripping display he had against the Giants. Attending 19 less ruck contests than Lycett, Ladhams finished the game with more hitouts to advantage than Lycett and Mumford combined with five for the day, to go with three goals and three marks.
- Shane Mumford (-)
Big Mummy is showing no signs of slowing down, pushing through nagging injuries and old man syndrome to carry the Giants solo ruck mantle alone in the last few weeks, with an interesting back up ruck choice. Mummy did what he does best against the Dons; providing a presence at the contest. Despite recording a game high seven clangers, he had 20 hitouts (eight to advantage), eight contested possessions, six clearances, five inside 50s, two tackles, and a goal. In a Shaun Grigg inspired move, young bullocking midfielder Tom Green was thrown into the ruck as backup, and from 13 ruck contests, he recorded…wait for it…no hitouts! This move continued into the next round where Green was able to record his first career hitout, while Mumford crashed and bashed his way to a round high 10 tackles and 21 pressure acts, to go with 23 hitouts and a goal.
- Ned Reeves / Ben McEvoy (-)
Here’s a fun fact: Ned Reeves is just one of four ruckman averaging at least 26 hitouts and four tackles a game, the others being Brodie Grundy, Shane Mumford, and Scott Lycett. Not bad company. The Big Noodle continues to keep veteran Jon Ceglar out of the side, averaging 27 hitouts (9.5 to advantage), 9.5 disposals, 6.5 tackles and 4.5 intercepts in the last fortnight. Big Boy McEvoy continues to bide his time between forward (60%) and ruck (40%) in a role he has played most of the year in. He has averaged 17.5 hitouts (4.5 to advantage) and 11 disposals in the last two weeks and continues to provide a much-needed presence in the air, collecting nine marks in this time.
- Sam Draper (-)
The young Bombers talisman is putting together a nice string of games recently. Against the contested king Shane Mumford, Draper managed to collect a game high seven clearances, along with 27 hitouts, 11 disposals and six score involvements. He was one of the Bombers’ best players against the Swans, accumulating 23 hitouts (11 to advantage), 11 disposals (10 contested), 16 pressure acts, four marks (including two contested), and five clearances, as Hickey and Draper battled hard all day.
- Tom de Koning / Jack Silvagni (+2)
Last time it was Chris Burgess, this week it’s Jack Silvagni. That’s right, it’s the rise of the non-recognised ruckman in the AFL. I’ll start with TDK first, who took a mark of the year contender against North in a strong overall display, racking up 22 hitouts (eight to advantage), 17 disposals, five intercepts, five score involvements, and six marks, including two contested and three intercepts. Unfortunately, TDK went down with an early injury against the Saints. With no other ruckman/forward playing for the Blues, it looked like they entered crisis mode. Enter SOSOS, Jack Silvagni. In a forward line bolstered by the return of commanding duo McKay and Curnow, Silvagni had a run in the ruck and tried his absolute heart out. Some might be asking, ‘he had five hitouts from 54 ruck contests, how is he better than a premiership ruckman in Nankervis?’ Well, Silvagni’s work around the ground was outstanding. While he was smashed in the air by both Marshall and Hunter, Silvagni gathered 25 disposals, nine tackles (including an equal game high two tackles inside 50), six clearances, five marks, a goal, and 23 pressure acts. He would have been lower if not for his brilliant groundwork which propelled the Blues to an unlikely win over the Saints.
- Toby Nankervis(-1)
In the last article, I highlighted the importance of Nankervis to Richmond’s structure, and while he has been serviceable in the last few games, Richmond were still unable to get over the line. In the Grand Final rematch against the Cats, Nank had 19 hitouts (four to advantage), 15 disposals (10 contested), 20 pressure acts, five clearances, and a round high seven tackles, while Chol backed him up with five hitouts of his own. In the next game against the Dockers in the west, Nankervis wasn’t going to let young bull Sean Darcy get the better of him that easily, finishing with a game high three centre clearances to go with 17 hitouts (eight to advantage), 15 disposals, four tackles, and four marks, which included three intercepts, a trademark of Nank’s game. Chol also had three intercept marks to go with his six hitouts, in a rock-solid defensive display by the Tigers big men.
- Tim English (-1)
English had a difficult matchup against premier ruckman Max Gawn, who limited him to just 14 hitouts. Regardless, he was still able to impact around the ground, finishing with 17 disposals (10 contested), a goal, 15 pressure acts, five tackles, and two marks. Despite collecting 27 hitouts against ROB a week later, he was only able to record one more hitout to advantage (4) than he did the week prior (3), to go with 14 disposals, a goal, another 15 pressure acts, five tackles, four clearances, and six marks, including two contested and two intercepts.
- Rhys Stanley / Mark Blicavs (-)
It seems like Stanley has firmly cemented his spot in Geelong’s best team in Jeremy Cameron’s absence. He was one of the Cat’s best against the Tigers, posting 25 hitouts (10 to advantage), 14 disposals and a goal, while Blicavs had 15 hitouts of his own to go with 14 disposals, five score involvements and four marks. The two were smashed in the air by Goldstein and Xerri, combining for just 26 hitouts and three to advantage, but on the other hand, together they had a whopping 15 marks, including four contested marks and four intercept marks.
- Chris Burgess / Zac Smith (-2)
Chris Burgess’ time off the bottom of the rankings was short but fun while it lasted. He was shown up by the Big O who was all over him in the air, restricting Burgess to just 13 hitouts (six to advantage) along with seven disposals. Ruckman Zac Smith returned the following round in an attempt to quell Max Gawn’s influence but struggled to do so, with Gawn winning the hitout count 31-19 while Burgess also chipped in with six hitouts and a goal.