Rucking - Searching for the Perfect Structure

Rucking - Searching for the Perfect Structure

By Peter Ryan & Callum Twomey (AFL Record)

Few truly understand the role of ruckwork.  Fewer still can assess its value. Ruckmen even have specialist coaches, outliers in a team game.  The best in the business, Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands, says few appreciate how long it takes to learn the art: “I just understand the game a lot more in the last few years, learning where to run and where to position myself.”

Sydney Swan Mike Pyke is beginning to work out what it’s about: “My main priority is to improve each week and take little steps.”  When it comes to selection, ruckmen are football’s wicketkeepers, fighting for a specialist position like few others.

History shows two ruckmen are needed to win premierships, but the best structure for the modern game is debated more and more as the game quickens, midfield run becomes vital and the search for an edge is constant.

Do we use one specialist and one part-timer? Do we pick one very good and one ‘OK’ ruckman? Is there room for two top-quality big men? Do we rotate them off the bench or push them forward for a breather? Do we want an athletic runner or a bigbodied stoppage expert?

You need at least one, as Hawthorn found out in round five when its only available big man Brent Renouf was a last-minute withdrawal. His absence prompted coach Alastair Clarkson to deliver post match one of the season’s biggest  understatements: “I reckon losing your ruckman is pretty significant when you’ve only got one of them.”

This is only a small excerpt of an article published by the AFL Record in Round 16 of the 2010 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. 

Download the full version (PDF) of the article

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