The Buzz: With Witts, Preuss or Darcy etc, is it time to forget ‘set and forget’?

For the past four years we have been blessed with an easy ruck structure to follow, with the likes of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy being your “set and forget” structure.

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Back in 2017 was the last time we had a genuine value SuperCoach option at the start of the year with Gold Coast recruit Jarrod Witts being a bargain-based price of $217k.

With the regression of our current ruck stocks from a few years ago, has there been a change of guard from the Gawn-Grundy combination or should we be seeking some more value selections?

Today I’ll be discussing the most popular ruck options and their pros and cons in selecting them.

Uber Premium selections

Brodie Grundy (AF $893k SC $627k RUCK)

It’s been a few years since we had a genuine peak Grundy where he averaged a massive 130 in both 2018 and 2019. In the last few years, he has had a few niggles where he’s had to be rested for a game or two or even take the secondary ruck duty behind Darcy Cameron to have his load managed. But even still this has resulted in 115+ averaged in both 2020 and 2021, coming into 2022, Grundy in my eyes is the safest ruck option you can pick this year. The reason being is that he has no genuine ruck competition to deal with in the Collingwood side, he plays an all-round ruck playstyle where he fills the stat sheet with hitouts to advantage, plenty of contested possessions and can hit the scoreboard. Furthermore, he is generally a very durable ruckman with only 5 games missed in the last 6 years. He should be locked and loaded into your ruck position come Round 1.

Max Gawn (AF $911k SC $657k RUCK)

Gawn has been our saviour for many years now with four consecutive years of 120+ average which included a ridiculous 139.9 in 2020. However, the question of whether there is a change of the guard has been brought up with Melbourne’s persistent development of Luke Jackson as an alternative ruck option. This was displayed in full effect towards the back end of the year as well as the Grand Final itself where Melbourne wasn’t getting the impact out of Gawn and did the ol’ switcheroo.  While people point out that he still averaged 118.3 in the finals series, it was inflated by a 159 in which he kicked 5 goals against the Cats, and I don’t think that stat line will be a regular occurrence in 2022. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll still be a phenomenal pick because he’s still got the ability to win plenty of hitouts to advantage, contested marks and hit the scoreboard all of which will contribute to a massive score, but does Jackson’s continuous development reduce his time in the middle and force him to spend more time forward? That’s the thing that owners might have to prepare for in the 2022 season. 

Sean Darcy (AF $786k SC $642k RUCK)

In 2021 we saw Darcy go to the next level as he bumped his average from 78 to 118 and he was totally ignored because he missed Round 1 due to injury. Despite him being bandaged up almost every game he still posted some monster scores with 6 x140+ scores including a 3 round period where he scored 193,183 and 156. Coming into 2022 Darcy is entering his prime and his scoring reflects this, combining this with Freo’s ever improving midfield should only boost his scoring from further hitouts to advantage. The only pre-season concern that I would have with Darcy is that he has had Achilles tightness a few weeks back which limited his work during the interim games. While coach Justin Longmuir has mentioned it’s all good for now, owners of Callum Mills last year would remember that he frustratingly missed rounds 18,19, 21 and 22 with a similar injury which could indicate that if it flares up during the season, we are going to have small 2-week stints where he plays and another 2 where he misses. 

Nic Naitanui (AF $713k SC $627k RUCK)

He is such a left field option, but you cannot ignore how impressively he scores points regardless of how many minutes he plays in the game. Amazingly for someone who is very injury prone he managed to keep himself fit for all 22 games last year and that reaped rewards with his best SuperCoach season resulting in being 2nd in total points for ruckmen behind Gawn. Even though he plays very limited minutes each game he scores so quickly (1.4 points per minute) that ultimately it counteracts his low time on ground. However, turning 32 next year, I can’t see how he doesn’t have load management throughout the year which can result in some lower scores because he just doesn’t play enough minutes. There will be games where he goes beast mode which was seen in Round 23 where he scored at an insane 1.9 PPM to score 165 against the Lions. A very nice point of difference for your team but I worry that he could break down at any moment or even be rested. 

Premium with Value

Rowan Marshall (AF $752k SC $536k RUCK)

Ever since Marshall broke out in 2019 jumping into the primary ruck role at the Saints, he has gone backwards from his career best 110.2 average. This was mainly because in 2020, the recruitment of Paddy Ryder meant Marshall took a backseat from his usual ruck duties and played more as a forward who rotated in the ruck. It wasn’t until injuries to Ryder meant that Marshall got thrown back into that primary ruck role and he re-took that mantle late last year which unfortunately means they’ve taken away his DPP. Take out his injury affected games last year he would average 108.1 in 10 games and keep in mind that he didn’t have a full pre-season and probably wasn’t 100% throughout the whole year. Priced at $537k there is most definitely value in his selection as the Saints will be wanting to continue his development as a primary ruckman. Even if we have a worst-case scenario where he gets pushed forward it will be a benefit because with the new rule changes, you’ll be able to swing him forward. 

Oscar McInerney (AF $643k SC $509k RUCK)

It might be hard to see how ‘The Big O’ can be considered as an option this year, given he only averaged 93.6. However, he averaged 113 in 10 games after the byes, so you could almost consider him to be someone to be as an option to break into the next mix of ruck options considering the current ruck uber premiums only averaged between 115-120 last year. What makes ‘the Big O’ stand out compared to other rucks is that he gets most of his scoring from winning stoppage clearances which would result in many contested possessions and hitouts to advantage that will boost his scoring. However, this also came from attending the most ruck contest in this period, the re-inclusion of Eric Hipwood and additional depth of Darcy Fort may potentially mean that McInerney’s ruck reliance isn’t necessarily needed next year, and he can spend a bit more time up resting forward knowing that the backup ruckman isn’t a Tom Fullarton. 

Mid-Price Madness and new recruits

Jarrod Witts (AF $572k SC $380k RUCK)

Many people will be quick to dismiss Witts as an option, but we should all remember back in 2017 when he was one of our best ruck options in a chaotic year. Coming into 2022, he will have missed a full season of footy after injuring his ACL in Round 3. Priced at $380k which is an average of around 70 he certainly will provide value considering that in the last 4 years before his injury he has had 3 years of averaging 90+. So, it is a safe choice in that he should make you some funds throughout the year in order to trade up to an uber-premium ruckman of your choice. My only concern is that considering his high career average is sub-100, he could be a slow burner in the cash making department so you may have to wait until the byes until you get to pick the ruckman of your choice. For me I would be passing on this unless you really believe in him having a career best year.

Braydon Preuss (AF $367k SC $204k RUCK)

Last year we all hyped Preuss up to be the ruckman to pick last year but then a nasty shoulder injury and then pec injury all but ruled him out for the season. However, you could argue we got a better gift in Matt Flynn starting the season as the primary ruckman instead. Now Preuss is priced at just over $200k and has been considered in many people’s teams simply because he can match it up against the best ruckmen as seen in 2020 when he had to fill in for an injured Gawn scoring an 84 and 85 against Grundy and Tim English respectively. While his scoring as a primary ruck can’t be questioned, I don’t think his job security is amazing considering that Flynn and Briggs performed admirably last year and the early indication from coaches and teammates suggest that Preuss will need to “earn” his spot in the side doesn’t necessarily bode well for someone who needs to solo ruck in order to make that value back. Unless the Giants have another ruck stock crisis or Preuss performs at another level in comparison to Flynn/Briggs then I won’t be picking him.

Max Lynch (AF $392k SC $207k RUCK)

Another ruck recruit was brought over to help with the lack of ruck stocks in Hawthorn especially after Jon Ceglar left for the Cats. Even though in his few games he has performed admirably scoring a 46 and 63 against top ruckmen in Reilly O’Brien and Gawn, I would be straight up ignoring this option because at this stage there’s a real possibility that Ben McEvoy comes back into the equation of ruck stocks given that the Hawks will get back many key backmen this year. Furthermore, it even seems like Ned Reeves is ahead of Lynch at this stage in the ruck queue. Again, like Preuss, there needs to be a crisis of ruck stocks at the Hawks for Lynch to play a fantasy relevant role because you won’t want to be paying $200k for someone to play back-up ruck. 

Conclusion

Overall, this year we ultimately have a tough choice in picking a combination of 2 ruckmen to fill in the void of our ruck structures. Do we take a riskier approach given we have the trade boost and extra trades to play with? Or is there extra information we need to find out in the pre-season games before we can make an informed decision.

For me at this stage Grundy and Darcy are my safest locked in R1 and R2 however the recent news of his Achilles tightness does put me off slightly and I would entertain the look into one of Gawn, Nic Nat or Marshall if I can’t trust the Freo medical team.

For people that want to pick mid-pricers, I wouldn’t bother unless Witts showcases he can achieve a career best year which may happen rucking with an ever-improving midfield. While bargain-based Preuss and Lynch need a lot more job security to even be considered. 

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