Please find below some ruminations on ruckmen, upon which I would appreciate your insight.
What do the below 15 ruckmen have in common?
If you answered they are all Premiership winners, well done. These are the starting rucks for all GF winners since 2000.
One thing I noticed looking at the list - and there is some fine players there – is that not many of them would lay claim to being one of the top few ruckmen in the competition. This is clearly open for debate, but broadly, it seems to me that the correlation between having a great ruckman and premiership success is weak from a statistical viewpoint.
Thinking about the current day rucks, those generally regarded as the best over the past few years – Grundy, Gawn, Natanui & Goldstein - have precisely 0 premierships between them, albeit Gawn may have a chance this year. If you believe in AFL ratings points, there isn’t a ruckman with a premiership in the top 10 performing rucks this year, although, again, that may change in a few weeks time.
This leads to a few possible conclusions.
- The difference between great and ordinary ruckmen is minimal
- Ruckwork is less influential in finals than H&A
- Having a great ruck can at times be detrimental - eg, a midfield with a poor ruck will better be better at sharking opposition taps
- Having a great ruck is a less effective spend of salary cap vs other positions – eg, Brodie Grundy
- Ruckmen performance is not well understood/measured
- Sample size is too small to draw firm conclusions- only 1 ruckman of 18 wins a premiership each year
- I’m reading far too much into this
There may be more.
Items 4 is interesting at this time of year. Is Grundy on $1m/year and a $300k/year midfielder a better use of resources than a $1m/year midfielder and $300k/year ruckman?
The other thing the majority of the post 2000 group have in common is being multiple club players. Only Bailey, Blake, Cox and Keating didn’t go on at least 2 clubs lists. Of those that appeared on multiple clubs lists:
Won Premiership With First Club:
Won Premiership with 2nd or 3rd club:
Darren Jolly (2nd & 3rd!)
John Barnes (2nd club, 2nd stint!)
Near enough to half of the premiership rucks of the last 2 decades were at their 2nd or 3rd club. Is there a learning/intellectual property aspect to this?
Whilst pondering this, I remembered Scott Wynd. As flawed as the Brownlow is, historically - at least as far back as I can be bothered going - it aligns with the great rucks don’t win premiership hypothesis. These are all the rucks who won Brownlows since 1960, 10 in total. None of them won a premiership.
I don’t put tonnes of value on this metric, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
What does it all mean? Do we look at them in the wrong way? Has the influence of a ruckman reduced as the game has got more professional?
Interested in your thoughts.