IS GEELONG'S NUMBER ONE RUCKMAN?
SINCE BRAD OTTENS retired following the 2011 AFL premiership there's been around ten ruckmen claim the mantle - and in round four 2017 we're still no more certain as to who it is - is it Rhys Stanley, Zac Smith, or even Mark Blicavs? In round one Smith sat out with Stanley favoured while Blicavs played a handy secondary role - one he didn't play too much in 2016 and looked all at sea at times, contrasting to his 2015 best and fairest season. Round two saw Smith once more on the sidelines but in round three Stanley was dropped in favour of Smith. Smith didn't have much to do after Max Gawn did a hamstring but did nothing wrong; for this Easter Monday's clash with the Hawks Stanley has been recalled, named at centre half forward with Smith in the ruck and Blicavs on the interchange. Obviously the sides named on a Thursday rarely if ever are what will line up for the first bounce but it is odd, particularly with Harry Taylor named as a backman again although at the press conference coach Chris Scott talked him up as a forward.
After Ottens retired, fellow 2011 premiership ruckman Trent West didn't last too long, playing 21 games in 2012 but moved on after playing 13 in 2013. He was outlived at the club by Dawson Simpson who played 13 games in 2014, followed by just 3 in 2014 and then moved on to GWS - his chances as number one dashed by Hamish McIntosh along with Blicavs forming a reasonably successful combination. McIntosh was recruited from North Melbourne for the 2013 season after sitting out most of 2012 with a knee injury that saw him not play a game until 2014, thereafter he managed 19 games, all of them in 2014, he was on the list in 2015 but injury again ruined his season.
In 2015 Stanley, recruited from St Kilda in the pre-season, impressed early and finally looked to be a fit for purpose replacement for Ottens, a ruckman who could also mark and kick a goal at times. Unfortunately Stanley's season came to an abrupt end in round 11 against Port Adelaide, a foot injury that turned out to be season ending. Simpson managed a game or two after that, but was dropped with the Cats favouring a sole Blicavs option with some chopping out from other pinch-hitters in Josh Walker or Nathan Vardy. The Cats memorably missed the finals for the first time since 2006. Smith was traded from the Gold Coast, proving his worth in 2016 playing 23 games and booting 12 goals.
Vardy and Walker were both recruited as forward-rucks with Vardy having the edge as a ruckman over Walker. Neither made much of an impact up forward and didn't really prove themselves in the ruck either, both moved on - Vardy now running around with West Coast and Walker with Brisbane. We've almost forgotten about the latest recruit, potentially enigmatic Ryan Abbott. Abbott played VFL last season along with GFL for Grovedale - turns 26 this season and stands 200cm tall and displaces the scales at 100kg.
After all that history where are we? Blicavs can ruck but at 198cm struggles against monsters like Shane Mumford, Max Gawn and the like. Smith and Stanley are both good in their own right but clearly neither has cemented the #1 spot. Neither has yet proven they can hold down a role as a key forward though in the last few seasons that was partially due to other tall forward options no longer at the club such as Shane Kersten, Vardy and Walker. Our choice between the two would be Smith, but believe there is a role for Stanley providing both he and Blicavs can be gainfully employed. The Geelong match committee appear undecided on who they prefer and in the first three rounds doesn't appear to see room for two specialist ruckmen either. On Saturday we found out that Stanley was left out and played VFL instead, so for now Smith has the top mantle.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW
BRAD OTTENS' MARK OF THE YEAR IN 2006
AFL 2017 - ROUND 4
HAWTHORN HAWKS V GEELONG CATS
MONDAY 17 APRIL 2017, 15:20 AEST