Mid Season Draft — Operation Replace Devon completed

From The Age:
“There are few recognised ruckmen on the list, but Essendon could be on the lookout for an extra big man after Sam Draper went down with a season-ending knee injury. Ex-Box Hill ruckman Michael Knoll has been linked to the Bombers, who showed interest in him late last year before he joined South Adelaide in the SANFL.”

Dons’ search for a tap gun is on: Seven ruckman in the mix

In need of help: Tom Bellchambers leaves the field after Essendon’s loss to Geelong

ESSENDON has 17 days to scour the country for another ruckman.

With emerging big man Sam Draper rupturing his ACL this week, it means the Bombers have two fit genuine ruckmen for the final 15 matches – Tom Bellchambers and Zac Clarke.

It will ensure the Bombers strongly consider using the Mid-Season Rookie Draft on May 27 where, for the first time since 1993, clubs can add to their list before the end of the year.

While every other club in the AFL has at least three ruckmen at their disposal, Draper’s season-ending injury leaves a hole in the Bombers’ big-man stocks, but does open a list availability.

Below: Emerging big man Sam Draper in action the VFL

It comes after the Bombers added Clarke during the Pre-Season Supplemental Selection Period (SSP) in December as Matthew Leuenberger knocked back the offer of a one-year extension.

Project ruckman Luke Lavender then decided to step away from football in February.

The Bombers even attempted to enter the race for now-Demon rookie Austin Bradtke in 2018.

While forwards Joe Daniher (200cm), Shaun McKernan (196cm) and James Stewart (199cm) have provided back-up in the ruck previously, it would be a big ask to carry the load should Bellchambers or Clarke suffer any setbacks.

It leaves the recruiting department with three weekends to head to all corners of the country to find a ruckman who can provide security in the push to September.


Ajang Ajang – East Perth
22yo, 198cm, 96kg

Just eight games into his WAFL career, the Sudanese big man is already turning heads. Was called upon for last year’s elimination final with instant success, collecting 28 hitouts, 13 disposals, two goals. Has now become one of the WAFL’s most athletic ruckmen with hitouts to advantage numbers through the roof. One of only two ruckmen set to undergo a medical assessment ahead of the Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

Jack Blair – North Adelaide
24yo, 206cm, 108kg

Trained with Sydney ahead of last year’s drafts before heading to North Adelaide to further his football resume. Started the season in the SANFL league side but was last week dropped to the reserves. A rugby convert, Blair only played his first season of football last year, winning a Premier Division flag for UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs in the AFL Sydney competition. Pushed into football by premiership ruckman Mike Pyke.

Oliver Eastland – Claremont
21yo, 198cm, 87kg

What Eastland lacks in height, he makes up with his athleticism. Burst onto the scene late last year in the ruck for Claremont, ironically holding his own against Zac Clarke when he was at Subiaco. Received attention in November and was invited to the WA State Draft combine. One of only two ruckmen among the list of 22 players invited for a medical screening ahead of the Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

Michael Knoll – South Adelaide
26yo, 204cm, 103kg
Will be the SANFL’s lone ruckman in Sunday’s State clash against the WAFL at Optus Stadium. Playing just his third year of football after a College basketball stint, Knoll crossed from Box Hill last year where he was emergency for the VFL Grand Final behind Marc Pittonet. Landed at South Adelaide this year after the Panthers lost Hayden McLean and Keegan Brooksby via the SSP. Could he be the third in 12 months?

Edyn Sibbald – Essendon VFL
23yo, 200cm, 90kg

Could be one from left-field. Stuck behind Draper and Clarke in Essendon’s VFL program, the St Bernard’s prospect has now been presented an opening as No.1 ruck. Debuted last year and has athletic traits, however it would be a big ask for him to lead the AFL ruck division. With Clarke on a one-year deal and Draper’s injury expected to keep him sidelined for parts of 2020, the Bombers could roll the dice.

Luke Strnadica – East Fremantle
21yo, 203cm, 100kg

Cut by Fremantle at the end of last season, the 21-year-old has returned home to his original WAFL club and been one of the shining lights in a disappointing start to the season. Averaging 32 hitouts from his opening five matches, the former WA Under 18 representative and AFL Academy member simply found himself caught in the Dockers’ logjam of talls last season.

Adam Swierzbiolek – Coburg
24yo, 200cm, 107kg

Soccer convert who presents as the ultimate mid-season smokey. Only playing local football 12 months ago, the 24-year-old has now taken the mantle at Coburg as the No.1 ruck. Still plenty of upside in his development, Swierzbiolek’s physicality has allowed him to go head-to-head with AFL-listed ruckmen. Averaging 19 hitouts and 10 disposals a game.

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Ajang Ajang might be worth a look.

Agree. Like the description of “one of the WAFL’s most athletic ruckmen”


Yep. There’s a bad quality highlight video of him with terrible music but he looks really competitive and actually really fast for a big man.

Bring him in!

Again with Ajang Ajang???

I’d say we more likely to go someone who is taller and bigger body to compete against the big boys of AFL

Undersized athletic rucks might work in lower leagues but would not compete well once in AFL.

Smack being someone for example

Draper was back up for Belly so similar type needed.

205cm+, 105kg+ type operator would be ideal

Ok, no need to repeat yourself.


Makes me want to laugh and think, ‘This is Australia’ for some reason.



Draft almost any of these rucks and the commentary team will seriously struggle.


I would definitely take a risk on Ajang Ajang – East Perth …Talent like that is what you try to find…those athletic traits are harder to find…you can play that kid in the forward line if you have to. I dont want to see us continually taking the safer options. His upside looks exciting.

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I think you’d definitely take a shot as a noob or rookie, … but the question is, does he have what it takes to play serious AFL footy if needed to be called upon right now?

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look how many failed rucks have been recruited in the past…try something different…plus the ruck position seems like its becoming more of an agile smaller roaming type role …just like Stanley from the cats.

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If i hadn’t seen this guy i would totally agree with you. His contested marking really stood out to me though. And at the moment i’m big on really quick players. Something you don’t generally get with the 105kg+ guys. You’re right though, he’s basically another Smack and most likely not as good.

We already have some mobile almost-rucks who will back in next few weeks (Smack, Stewart etc). We need a ready-to-go-monster in case TBell breaks down.

Grassy Knoll for mine.


From that article about two… quote… “studs”

“I first saw Bolton play in 2016 for Claremont against mighty Subiaco. Kyal Horsley, Adam Cockie, Chris Phelan, Leigh Kitchin and Greg Broughton were among the hardened bodies who pounded away at him that day. ”

Young stud gets pounded by 5 hardened bodies. Rightio then.


Stanley is still - 200cm / 102kg

and Ajang Ajang is 198cm 96kg with a bigger jump you would think…not much in height and put him in a program and he would get bigger