We know how important the big men are in the modern AFL. Their ability to be agile, durable and consistent goal-kickers is needed now more than ever.
I’ve ranked each club’s ruck department, including those who play in other positions and are ‘pinch hitters’, to try and gauge the most dangerous ruck group in the competition.
No. 1 ruckman: Aaron Sandilands
Other Options: Zac Clarke, Jonathan Griffin, Michael Apeness, Craig Moller.
The Dockers have the best ruck cattle in the comp. Sandilands is one of the most valuable players in the game when fully fit, and while his understudy Zac Clarke gets regular games, it’s a good problem to have when you’ve got someone of Griffin’s ability not in their best 22.
No. 1 ruckman: Ben McEvoy
Other Options: Jonathan Celgar, David Hale, Jarryd Roughead, Sam Grimley.
The same analysis this time last year would’ve seen the Hawks ranked somewhere in the bottom half. And while they may be quite reliant on McEvoy and his fitness, we can’t argue just how big a fish the reigning champs landed last year.
Hale and Roughead will play forward, but can both also spend time rucking.
3. Greater Western Sydney Giants
No. 1 ruckman: Shane Mumford
Other Options: Jonathan Giles, Andrew Phillips, Rory Lobb
Again, the Giants are ranked much higher than you’d think because they also landed an elite ruckman. Shane Mumford will fit well in Western Sydney, and is one of the top ruckmen going around. Giles has been around a while now and is a real competitor.
There aren’t too many big ruckmen on the Giants’ list, but the ones they do have are quality.
4. West Coast
No. 1 ruckman: Nic Naitanui
Other Options: Dean Cox, Scott Lycett, Callum Sinclair
Nic Nat is No. 1 because Cox is now a player-coach and is being phased out. Despite Cox being well past his best, the pair remain dangerous, and those coming through the ranks will learn quickly.
No. 1 ruckman: Ivan Maric
Other Options: Ty Vickery, Orren Stephenson, Shaun Hampson, Liam McBean, Todd Elton.
A fit and firing Maric is crucial to success at Punt Road. He is one of the dominant big boys.
What the Tigers also have is depth with their rucks. Stephenson and McBean are primary ruckmen who will play a few games, while Hampson and Vickery will spend a lot of time forward, but are capable.
6. Western Bulldogs
No. 1 ruckman: Will Minson
Other Options: Tom Campbell, Ayce Cordy, Jordan Roughead
Minson earned All-Australian honours last season and carried the ruck duties. Campbell will play regularly, the only problem being the lack of big guys. They will feel the pinch should Minson break down.
No. 1 ruckman: Patrick Ryder
Other Options: Tom Bellchambers, Fraser Thurlow, Joe Daniher.
The best thing here is that, probably more so than at most other clubs, these big men kick goals.
Ryder will assume the main rucking place – particularly as Bellchambers misses the opening month. But with only a handful to play with, it’s so important that Paddy plays.
No. 1 ruckman: Sam Jacobs
Other Options: Angus Graham, Josh Jenkins, Shaun McKernan, Jack Osborn.
Only two years ago Sam Jacobs was one of the premier rucks in the game. He had a lean 2013, but is still crucial. The others are solid back-ups and can all play forward. Adelaide has plenty of depth.
9. North Melbourne
No. 1 ruckman: Todd Goldstein
Other Options: Daniel Currie, Majak Daw, Eric Wallace, Ben Brown.
‘Toddy’ is a quality player, and will be the main man. Currie is yet to crack senior football but that day will come soon. Daw and Wallace are still very raw, so a fair bit rests on Goldstein’s shoulders.
No. 1 ruckman: Matthew Leuneberger
Other Options: Trent West, Stefan Martin, Sam Michael, Archie Smith.
Leuenberger stacks up with the best in the business, and with age on his side, there’s no telling how good he could be. West is experienced and will provide support, with the rest still a fair way off.
No. 1 ruckman: Matthew Kreuzer
Other Options: Robbie Warnock, Cameron Wood, Levi Casboult, Sam Rowe.
It’s time for Kruezer to step up to the next level. This ruck crop can work quite well together, and it also helps that Casboult and Rowe can ruck even though they are key forwards.
No. 1 ruckman: Hamish McIntosh
Other Options: Nathan Vardy, Mark Blicavs, Dawson Simpson.
The problem for Geelong is that McIntosh will miss the early part of the season, and Vardy almost all of it. Blicavs burst on the scene last year and must continue, while it’s now or never for Simpson.
Lack of depth sees them down this low.
No. 1 ruckman: Mike Pyke
Other Options: Tom Derickx, Toby Nankervis, Kurt Tippett, Patrick Mitchell.
Big shoes to fill for the Canadian, but he’s capable. The ruck department is about the only worry with the Swans’ list. Tippett is a useful part-timer, but they’ll want him kicking goals with Buddy. Don’t discount the injury-prone Derickx either.
14. St Kilda
No. 1 ruckman: Tom Hickey
Other Options: Billy Longer, Rhys Stanley, Jason Holmes, Lewis Pierce.
St Kilda may regret giving up McEvoy, but they claim the deal satisfied both parties. The jury’s still out on that one.
It’s a huge ask for either Hickey or Longer to assume the main role, but someone has to. Either way, I think they’ll play a lot of footy together. They are the ones.
15. Gold Coast Suns
No. 1 ruckman: Zac Smith
Other Options: Daniel Gorringe, Tom Nicholls, Charlie Dixon, Jack Leslie
Maybe unlucky not to be higher, but the fact is their main rucks aren’t as high quality, though that’s not suggesting they can’t become so. Leslie is a top 20 pick and the future looks bright for Smith and Nicholls particularly.
16. Port Adelaide
No. 1 ruckman: Matthew Lobbe
Other Options: Jarrad Redden, Brent Renouf
Quite a weak point in the Power’s list. Lobbe is getting better and better, but as we can see, having only a B or C grader as your No. 1 doesn’t help you.
They also lack depth big time. Losing Lobbe at any stage means it’s down to rookie-listed Renouf and young Redden. Renouf’s ’08 premiership medallion shouldn’t be forgotten, but you can’t live off that forever.
No. 1 ruckman: Brodie Grundy
Other Options: Jarrod Witts, Quinten Lynch, Lachlan Keefe, Ben Hudson.
Grundy impressed in his seven games in 2013, and now he must take a giant step with the main role. He has the talent, but is still raw, as is Witts.
Hudson the journeyman is there for both back-up and mentoring, while Lynch and Keefe are required primarily in other positions. Perhaps 17 is a bit harsh on them? Maybe.
No. 1: Mark Jamar
Other Options: Jack Fitzpatrick, Jake Spencer, Max Gawn, Max King.
There’s enough quantity, but that’s not the idea. Jamar is still their best even though he’s in the twilight of his career. Spencer is the next in line as Fitzpatrick plays mostly forward.