Let’s look into the preseason shape of the AFL ruck divisions. This is not an exercise in predicting the form of teams, players or divisions, but the current shape and value of each division.
Grades should not to be used to compare against other teams, but as a form of evaluating the current situation at the club in question.
Number one ruckman: Sam Jacobs
Backups: Angus Graham (traded, Richmond), Josh Jenkins, Shaun McKernan, Ben Dowdell (Rookie), Jack Osborn (Rookie).
What I said last year: Lacking Depth, but helped by Jacobs and strong midfield. B Grade.
2013: Wow. What a difference a year makes.
This time last year I was discussing Adelaide’s apparent lack of depth following the departure of Ivan Maric.
Since then, Adelaide has established itself as on of the best contested ball winning sides in the AFL, thanks largely to their ruck.
In fact, to one ruckman in particular – Sam Jacobs.
Jacobs was very unlucky to miss out on All Australian team selection, with the two Crows to make the side, Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson, attributing their selection to the ‘Big Sauce’ “making them look good.”
Sauce now also looks to have some serious help behind him, with the Crows selecting Angus Graham from Richmond, and unearthing a potential new star in Josh Jenkins last seasons.
Many, especially Richmond supporters, are quick to knock Graham, but every player deserves a second chance and sometimes that’s just what they need to realize their full potential.
Working to a strong band of followers, and with the new rules surrounding contact around the ruck, Graham may well find a new lease on life at West Lakes, not unlike Jenkins did after moving over from Essendon.
This season Jenkins has the weight of the world on his shoulders as many Crows fans expect him to be the logical pinch-hitting replacement for Kurt Tippett.
However this spot is also being hotly contested by Shaun McKernan, who will surely find himself on the chopping block if 2013 does not go in his favour.
Adelaide is now spoiled for choice in the big man department, and competition for spots among their senior ruckmen will be hot in 2013.
With the added bonus of a full forward spot up for grabs, Adelaide can afford to rotate the three big men through, giving greater flexibility and depth to their ruck come match day.
Number one ruckman: Matthew Leuenberger.
Backups: Stefan Martin (traded, Melbourne), Billy Longer, Sam Michael (Rookie)
What I said last year: Leuenberger one of few shining lights, needs to be supported by experienced Hudson. Grade: B-
2013: Well, I’m sure 2012 was not the year the Lions were hoping for from their young star, who was crippled by an achilles tendon injury.
Fortunately they had elder statesman Ben Hudson and young hopeful Billy Longer to fill the void, but the injury still hurt in more ways than one.
It meant having to place a lot of faith on the youngster, none more so than the afternoon when he was roundly beaten by Fremantle giant Aaron Sandilands, who amassed 54 hitouts against the younger man.
And now with the departure of retired and born-again journeyman Hudson, now at his fourth club in Collingwood, the Lions will be hoping for an injury free season from the pair.
The addition of Stefan Martin form Melbourne is a much needed boost for the club, but the hopes of Voss and the rest of the coaching staff will no doubt be on Leuenberger and Longer, two potential stars of the future.
A lot of expectation is to be placed on these two young men, but the signs are all very positive, and, further injuries aside, I would expect big things from the pair.