What will your club’s ruck duo look like in 2023?
Melbourne skipper and ruckman Max Gawn believes that the Demons’ combination of the recently acquired Brodie Grundy could be lethal.
Grundy was subject to a salary cap squeeze at Collingwood and was forced out of the club despite having five years left on his lucrative contract.
The two-time All-Australian from the AIA Centre replaced 2021 Rising Star Luke Jackson, who opted to return to his home state Western Australia and join Fremantle.
Jackson and Grundy were not the only ruckmen to find new homes ahead of 2023, with Lloyd Meek and Rory Lobb departing the Dockers in a mini ruck merry-go-round.
Gawn – who is promoting 2023’s Tour Down Under – said at a media event that he and Grundy “is one of the better ones (combinations).”
“I see it working really, really well. I am really, really excited. I am really bullish about the fact it can work,” Gawn said.
“So maybe keeping teams on their toes could be Brodie forward, me forward, could be both in the ruck, could be one playing mid – probably not, but one could.
“(A) two-time All-Australian, two-time best and fairest winner for half his salary. It’s an amazing get, come in Brodie,”
Melbourne will look to emulate Geelong’s winning formula when it unveils a dynamic new ruck combination. As Max Gawn prepares to team up with Brodie Grundy, the skipper issued a bold declaration. https://t.co/5zYfOfGqUb @cleary_mitch @7AFL #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/w92QMZ6jYh
— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) November 8, 2022
Given that the AFL is considering a change to the current interchange system that could see a fifth player join the bench (previously four with a medical sub), there’d be room for two primary ruckman.
7News journalist Mitch Cleary believes the league will come to a decision soon over the controversial ‘Medi-Sub’ allowances that looked to have been manipulated.
“The AFL is making a change to the controversial (substitution) rule,” Cleary said.
“Some clubs are leaning towards a five-man bench, many believe the league is leaning towards four plus a sub which can be used at any time.”
A major rule change in the AFL is set to come to a head next week. A crucial meeting will decide if the sub rule stays or goes. @cleary_mitch with more. https://t.co/5zYfOfGqUb @7AFL #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/eANsOjPmr1
— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) November 9, 2022
Recent winners Geelong (2022) and Melbourne (2021) both fielded two ruckman in their premiership runs and identified an upperhand.
This begged the question, which club will have the best ruck combination in 2023?
Max Gawn-Brodie Grundy
It’s scary reading both these names in the same side.
Eight All-Australian selections between them and have been the premier ruckmen for the past five years.
Sean Darcy-Luke Jackson
This pair is the likely replacement for Gawn/Grundy as the competition’s best big men.
It’s no surprise the Dockers paid top dollar for Jackson.
Give this duo a nickname. pic.twitter.com/FOHdDN8EHV
— 7AFL (@7AFL) October 12, 2022
3. Western Bulldogs
Tim English-Rory Lobb
English is on his way to becoming a star and Lobb had a career best season in 2022.
Both push hard forward and are mobile enough to help in defence.
Rhys Stanley-Mark Blicavs
An unorthodox pairing but isn’t that Geelong’s thing? Doing things differently?
The duo have an incredible aerobic base and have a strong understanding of what to do and when.
Tom Hawkins also helps out up forward.
Tom Hickey-Peter Ladhams/Sam Reid
Doesn’t matter who you pair Hickey with, it’s a strong combination.
Ladhams and Reid are mobile options and John Longmire could play all three pending bench numbers.
Jarrod Witts-Mabior Chol
Witts has been slept on for some time now, unfortunately in the shadows of Gawn and Grundy.
However, is a star of the competition and Chol continues to impress up forward and around the ground.
7. Port Adelaide
Scott Lycett-Sam Hayes
People have forgotten how talented Lycett is.
The former Eagle could bring the Power back into premiership contention with the help of youngster Sam Hayes and forward Jeremy Finlayson.
Toby Nankervis-Ivan Soldo
Nankervis is essentially another on-baller and is excellent in helping his defence.
Soldo does give Damien Hardwick another look and pushes forward while Noah Balta can play any position.
Oscar McInerney-Darcy Fort
Strange to think McInerney was picked up as a ‘mature-ager’ by the Lions but why wouldn’t they when he has the ability to cover the ground, excellent tap work and clean hands below the knees standing at 206cm.
Fort proved his worth early in 2022 and is a dead-eye in front of goal.
Marc Pittonet-Tom De Koning
The Blues struggled when Pittonet went down with a knee injury despite their strong midfield.
De Koning will be a future star and is slowly but surely coming into his own.
Sam Draper-Andrew Phillips
Draper has so much upside reflected by his 2022 Goal of the Year.
— AFL (@AFL) September 18, 2022
Phillips is in his 30s but Nick Bryan has shown glimpses.
Ned Reeves-Lloyd Meek
The pair haven’t established themselves as great ruckmen, yet.
Both with plenty of potential and in the right age bracket.
Garry Lyon believes Reeves could be a top 25 player, according to SEN.
Reilly O’Brien-Kieran Strachan
The Crows would be much lower if it weren’t for O’Brien.
Known as a running machine, the 27-year-old keeps improving his game, including taking notes of opposition ruckmen.
Crows ruckman Reilly O’Brien explained exactly how he accidentally ended up tweeting his game notes on Nic Naitanui – fair play to own up to it! pic.twitter.com/u3HoV18C8k
— Triple M Footy (@triplemfooty) July 9, 2020
14. St Kilda
Rowan Marshall-Tom Campbell
The retirement of Paddy Ryder has left a massive hole that hopefully for Saints fans Marshall fills.
Plays a lot like Grundy: mobile for a ruck, follows up well and can beat his opponents out in space.
Campbell was picked up for depth but may find himself featuring in more games come 2023.
15. North Melbourne
Todd Goldstein-Callum Coleman-Jones
Both at opposite ends of their career.
Goldstein arguably rivalled Dean Cox for a period as the best ruckman in the 2010s.
Coleman-Jones was prized out of Richmond for a high draft pick but has yet to gather momentum.
Darcy Cameron-Mason Cox
Despite the Pies’ amazing run in 2022 and the form of Cox/Cameron, they still don’t rank that well as a duo.
Collingwood ranked 12th in average clearances for the season which has been heightened by their finals performances.
Both Cox and Cameron are a good second ruckman but Grundy’s departure means they’ll need to shoulder more load along with recruits Dan McStay and Billy Frampton.
17. West Coast
Nic Naitanui-Bailey Williams
Reading Naitanui will shock most people given the Eagles are ranked second last.
However, with no up-and-coming replacement for the champ and his ongoing injuries which kept him to eight games in 2022, it’s hard to see who’s worse.
Braydon Preuss-Kieran Briggs
Preuss and Briggs combined for 14 games in 2022 due to injury, suspension and out-of-favour.
The former has shown a bit at the level but cannot string a consistent season together.
Let’s hope 2023 is a page turned for the Giants.