Over the course of the bye rounds, SEN will be breaking down top 10’s in various categories so far in the 2018 season.
Today, we’ll be ranking the top 10 ruckmen in the competition and this is a hard task given the boom in quality big men this year.
There’s a few players unlucky to miss out on this list including Sam Jacobs, Aaron Sandilands and Tom Bellchambers, which shows how deep this position goes right now.
Jacobs in particular has fallen out, despite being named in last year’s All-Australian squad.
1. Brodie Grundy
Grundy grabs the number one spot over Max Gawn by a very slim margin. The Pies ruckman is brilliant when the ball is on the deck and can win games with his work around the grounds as much as he can with his tap work. He grinds other ruckmen into the dirt with constant efforts and is a genuine threat inside 50 as well. He won the battle on Queen’s Birthday against Gawn and so rightfully holds the crown at the moment.
2. Max Gawn
Gawn is the best pure ruckman in the game. He averages nearly 49 hit-outs per game – only Sandilands joins him in the 40s. He gets to the ball first and is usually quite effective at getting the ball to one of Melbourne’s many excellent midfielders. He’s serviceable around the ground, can take big marks inside 50 and rarely has a bad game. Gawn also has an x-factor about him and he’s someone who will likely win a final for the Dees one day.
3. Nic Naitanui
Naitanui is the hardest to analyse on this list simply because he doesn’t play the same amount of minutes as those around him. The top 10 ruckmen in the competition for hit-outs per game average 84 per cent game-time, while Naitanui sits at 57.9. He might just be number one on this list if he was able to get his minutes up, and there arguably isn’t a more damaging player in the competition when in full flight.
4. Paddy Ryder
Last year’s All-Australian ruckman hasn’t quite backed it up in 2018, simply because he suffered an Achilles injury early in the season. He’s returned to the Power side now and is building form, but a gap has emerged between the top three on this list and the rest. Ryder is a fantastic tap ruckman and while he doesn’t get much of the ball, he’s one of the best contested marking ruckmen in the game thanks to his raw athleticism.
5. Stefan Martin
Martin has always been a ruckman with the mindset of getting the ball first, and then worrying about everything else. He averages 20 disposals per game to go with 36 hit-outs and while he’s not particularly damaging with the ball, he contributes in an area where a lot of ruckmen struggle. He’s effectively a fourth midfielder who can hold his own against any ruckman at stoppages.
6. Ben McEvoy
McEvoy doesn’t quite get the style points of the others on this list, but he’s been one of the most consistent ruckmen of the last two years. He doesn’t dominate in the hit-outs, but he marks the ball around the ground and impacts contests as much as anyone else on this list. Contested marking is one of his strengths which gives Hawthorn the ability to target him with confidence.
Kreuzer is the heart and soul of the Carlton Football Club and made the All-Australian squad last year. He isn’t quite in that discussion this season, but his ability to win contested footy, tackle and provide a shield for a lot of Carlton’s smaller midfielders still makes him Carlton’s most important player not named Cripps. He often gets beaten in the hit-out count, but it’s rare he’ll come up against someone who has more impact when the ball is on the turf.
8. Todd Goldstein
Goldstein was once regarded as the best ruckman in the game, but a quiet 2017 saw him fall right down the rankings. He’s rediscovered form this year with his ability to dominate in the ruck and take big marks. He’s kicked five goals this year and only Max Gawn has more from those on this list. He’s approaching the twilight of his career, but is still well and truly within the best 10 ruckmen in the game when at his best.
9. Jarrod Witts
Witts sits ahead of Nankervis because of his pure dominance in the ruck. He averages 39 hit-outs per game as well as 15.4 disposals which makes him a real weapon for the Suns. He isn’t invisible around the ground like a lot of ruckmen his size usually are. That coupled with his sheer dominance in the ruck thanks to his advantage of being 209cm makes him someone who will likely climb this list over the coming years. He’s not afraid to tackle either, with only Matthew Kreuzer, Nic Naitanui and Brodie Grundy ahead of him on this list in tackles per game.
10. Toby Nankervis
The premiership ruckman doesn’t have the same hit-out numbers as the others on this list, only averaging 22 per game. It’s what he does around the ground, grinding his opponents down and getting plenty of the footy himself that puts him on this list. Nankervis gives the Tigers a toughness and an x-factor in the middle that few other ruckmen on this list provide.
Originally published on SEN.com.au