Melbourne's Max Gawn during the round-one AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Demons at Etihad Stadium.
Melbourne's Max Gawn during the round-one AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Demons at Etihad Stadium. MAL FAIRCLOUGH

Demons big man not bothered by rule change

MELBOURNE ruckman Max Gawn says he hasn't "really noticed" the absence of the third-man-up tactic around the ground, despite a dominant round-one performance.

In 2016, St Kilda ruckman Tom Hickey got the better of Gawn both times the pair faced off, with help from the likes of Seb Ross, Josh Bruce and Nick Riewoldt, who all went third-man-up at times.

But with the banning of the tactic, the Dees big man smashed Hickey in the ruck on Saturday, recording 49 hit-outs to the Saint's 18.

Despite that outing, Gawn said he'd largely been unaffected by the rule change in Melbourne's pre-season games against the Bulldogs, Carlton and West Coast.

"To be honest I haven't really noticed it too much," Gawn told foxfooty.com.au.

"It only happens probably four or five times a game unless you play a really big second-jumper team, which St Kilda are.

"So I probably noticed it more on the weekend than I did during the JLT.

"I find every ruckman has a different skill, a different talent that you have to try and match so you're on an edge thinking about the ruckman let alone the third man up anyway."

The AFL sprung a shock in December 2016 when it announced the third-man-up would be banned in 2017.

Jordan Lewis, who crossed to Melbourne from Hawthorn, had been a prolific user of the tactic, recording 54 third-man-up hit-outs in 2016.

While Gawn has frequently been listed as one of the rule's beneficiaries, given his general superior height and aggression at the contest, the Melbourne big man said he'd enjoyed making use of the tactic in the past.

"I used the third-man-up as well," Gawn said.

"We've got Bernie Vince who's very good at it; Jordan Lewis who just got to the club.

 

Aaron Sandilands of Fremantle and Max Gawn of Melbourne battle for the ball.
Aaron Sandilands of Fremantle and Max Gawn of Melbourne battle for the ball. TONY MCDONOUGH

"So I liked to use it as well when I had the chance. I've got (Aaron) Sandilands round four and I'd definitely be wanting the rule then.

"So probably every team just loses three or four little options that they could've done at a stoppage and I suppose for that dominant ruck on the day, it probably helps him."

Something that could add a different dimension to Melbourne's options both at the stoppages and up front is the inclusion of a second ruckman.

Jake Spencer enjoyed a superb pre-season, deputising for Gawn when the first-choice ruckman swung forward.

While Jack Watts provided ruck support on the weekend, Gawn said Spencer's deployment in the AFL team would be a week-by-week prospect.

"I think it's just going to be assessed every week against the team we're (playing), if the balance is going to weigh up," he said.

"I think 'Spence' is going to be on the edge of his seat every single game so it could be this week, could be next week but I'm sure it'll happen in the near future.

"He's had a great pre-season and the JLT showed that the two rucks can definitely work so it'll just be a waiting game now I suppose."

Max Gawn is an ambassador for the Reach Foundation, a for-purpose organisation for young people which was co-founded by the late Jim Stynes. This weekend is the MFC Round for Reach. Reach is asking for the community to donate $11 (after the No.11 worn by Stynes, Gawn and AFLW Demon Laura Duryea) to help support its programs. Visit reach.org.au to find out more.

News Corp Australia


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