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Ruck stocktake: How each club is looking in the big man department

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This year’s much-publicised AFL rule changes could have many effects. Among the most likely is that ruckmen will benefit.

Firstly, ruckmen are now able to grab the ball out from centre bounces and boundary throw-ins without being deemed to have had prior opportunity.

Then there are the 6-6-6 starting positions at centre bounces which should theoretically make it easier for teams to make fast breaks from the middle on the back of strong tap ruck work.

Having strong depth of ruck stocks has arguably never been more important, with the difference between the elite and the also-rans set to be amplified.

It’s been the Sam Jacobs show for a long time. The former Carlton back-up has played 22 or more games in each of the past seven seasons and largely gone it alone with the odd bit of help from Josh Jenkins. However Jacobs, whose strength has been his tap work, dropped off the pace a touch in 2018 after a stellar 2017 in which he was instrumental in the Crows’ run to the grand final. He turns 31 in April and Adelaide must be preparing for the future, with the inexperienced Reilly O’Brien, Paul Hunter and Kieran Strachan - signed from Port Melbourne as a rookie - waiting in the wings.

Adelaide's Sam Jacobs tangles with Max Gawn.Credit:AAP

Perhaps because his side hasn’t been in finals contention for years, Stefan Martin has flown under the radar as one of the AFL’s most dependable and consistent ruckmen of the last five years. But the former Melbourne big man is in the twilight of his career, and comes out of contract at the end of the season. After a lengthy apprenticeship, Archie Smith is said to have been a big improver over the pre-season and the baton may very soon be passed to him. Oscar McInerney showed he could compete last year too, while the Lions also have former basketballer Tom Fullarton in their ranks.

Believe it or not, one time fresh-faced kid Matthew Kreuzer will be 30 come May. He faces a race against time to be right for round one as he recovers from knee surgery, and courageous as he has been in the face of injuries it’s hard to know just how much more footy he has in him. The Blues don’t have any young ruckmen but they do at least have two capable and experienced big men in Andrew Phillips and Matthew Lobbe ready to go if need be.

Blues big man Matthew Kreuzer.Credit:AAP

The Magpies have one of the two clear standout ruckmen in the competition in the form of Brodie Grundy, who is such a valuable commodity because of his rare ability to dominate both with tap work and around the ground, where he effectively serves as an extra midfielder. There’d barely be a harder player to replace in the competition. Still, premiership ruckman Jordan Roughead could be decent cover having crossed from the Western Bulldogs, while Max Lynch is developing. Mason Cox........

© Canberra Times