The 20/20 Ruck Club

What difference does a dominant ruck make to a team?

And, for that matter, what constitutes a dominant game from the league’s big men?

In looking at the 2023 season, I decided to focus on the players who were able to win their share of ruck taps, and also accumulate plenty of the footy around the ground. I wanted a good mix of ruck work, combined with the ability to stretch the opposition by providing a target around the ground. I figured that a good number to start at was 20.

For a big man, 20 disposals per game is a feat not accomplished all that often. Its usually the number that makes you sit up, take notice, and realise that one if the big men was able to find plenty of the footy.

2023 saw Tim English as the best of the big men in that regard. He recorded a 20 disposals in a game in 12 of his 23 outings to be the best of the big men. Of course, an All-Australian blazer was his reward for that season. The best thing about English, though, is that he also won ruck taps at a higher rate than he ever had. In those 12 games, he managed 20 or more every time, giving him 12 20/20 games in 2023.

Rowan Marshall, who many thought was pushing for the All-Australian spot occupied by English, had ten 20/20 games from his 24 games, whilst Max Gawn had just five games where he achieved the stat markers required. Gawn had eight the year before when he was All-Australian ruck, and in 2021, he had another eight as the number one ruck in the AA team.

If we look back to players like Dean Cox, whose running style of play made him one of the greatest big men of the modern era, we can see why he is so highly regarded by all footy fans – not just West Coast supporters. He managed to hit 20/20 in 65 games over the course of his career, to be the number one man of all-time in this category. Part of me wonders just how far he’d be ahead in this had Nic Nat not happened by and started eating up minutes in the ruck?

If we go back a bit further in time, Simon Madden was a player I thought would be right at the pointy end of it all, but he managed to accrue just eight games in his career when he was able to register 20/20 contests. Meanwhile, Gary Dempsey, who I have such fond memories of watching live at Arden Street, had the second-highest number of anyone, with 60 career total 20/20 games.

That said, the man in third place, Brodie Grundy, is breathing down Dempsey’s neck.

And so, heading into the 2024 season, here at The Mongrel, we are going to be charting the league leaders in the 20/20 ruck game, and drilling down on how these blokes impacted the game when they achieved those numbers.

For the record, in 2023, when Gawn had a 20/20 game, the Dees were 4-1. When English did it, the Dogs were 5-7, and when Marshall hit those numbers, the Saints were 7-2.

Lift your game, Dogs! English was doing his part, damn it!

Below are the career numbers for some of the bigger names in the league, both past and present. It is an incomplete list at the moment – I used the top 30 all-time hit out players as the basis to work from, and threw in some of the big names from the past, and a few more modern rucks, as well. I am sure I missed a few, but I will continue to add to this list as we progress through the year.




Dean Cox – 65 (3)

Gary Dempsey – 60 (2)

Brodie Grundy – 59 (3)

Stefan Martin – 48 (1)

Max Gawn – 36 (1)

Len Thompson – 33

Peter Moore – 33

Jeff White – 29

Todd Goldstein – 28

Aaron Sandilands – 27 (1)

Rowan Marshall – 22 (1)

Sam Jacobs – 21

Mark Lee – 21

Matt Rendell – 20

Jim Stynes – 18

Barry Round – 18

Toby Nankervis – 16

Sam Newman – 15

Polly Farmer – 14* (3)

Peter Everitt – 14

John Nicholls – 13**

Don Scott – 12

Scott Lycett – 12

Steven King – 11 (1)

Nic Naitanui – 10

Justin Madden – 10

Paul Salmon – 9 (1)

Brad Ottens – 9

Simon Madden – 8

Brendon Lade – 8

Reilly O’Brien – 8

Scott Wynd – 7

Jarrod Witts – 7

Tom Hickey – 7

Mark Blicavs – 7

Matthew Kreuzer – 6

Sean Darcy – 6

Rhys Stanley – 5

Ben McEvoy – 4

Paddy Ryder – 4

Will Minson – 4

Shane Mumford – 3

Darren Jolly – 3

Mark Jamar – 2

Oscar McInerney – 2

Kieren Briggs – 2

Luke Jackson – 2

Tristan Xerri – 2

Darcy Cameron – 1


Righto, HB… what do those brackets mean?

Great question – glad I asked.

They’re games where the player has notched a 30/30 game. Not bad, huh? There are not that many of them – it’s like the Holy Grail for ruckmen. I didn’t expect Steven King to get his head in that mix with one of those games, but maybe I underrated him – where does he get the time after writing all those books and arguing with people on Twitter?

*Only the final two seasons of Polly Farmer’s career had hit outs officially recorded. Ripped off… I wonder how many he would have achieved 20/20 games had he had full stats over the course of his career? He has the equal highest number of 30/30 games, with three of those games recorded in those last two seasons. Incredible…

**Similar to Polly, John Nicholls would have been much higher had hit out stats been recorded earlier. The first nine seasons of his career had no hit outs recorded, but in the first year they were, he had seven 20/20 games.

Interestingly, Jim Stynes never had over 26 hit outs in a game during his career.


The numbers might be one or two out on some of the players. As soon as I re-download the stats spreadsheet from twitter that has been a godsend over the years, I’ll have a more accurate leaderboard, but as of right now, it looks as though Brodie Grundy might be able to catch Dean Cox if he can recapture some of his 2019 form… he was able to record two 20=20 games at Melbourne last season, despite it being a pretty dismal year for him, so as the number one man in Sydney, we could be looking at a new overall leader by the end of 2024.

Does it mean he’s better?

No, and don’t try to make that case. It’s just stats. Stats for fun. And that’s all the 20/20 club is. Hope you enjoyed.

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