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‘It can sometimes be easier’: What to do when the ruck disappears

Former North Melbourne and Geelong ruckman Hamish McIntosh, who was ruck coach at Carlton until COVID hit, says the unfortunate situation simplifies midfield previews.

“It can sometimes make it easier, in a way, to set up because you know who is going to win the hit out,” McIntosh said.

“You have more of a defensive mindset as you are just reading the opposition ruckmen.”

His instinct is to throw every idea on the table, indicating that Suns would be entitled to consider throwing Hugh Greenwood into the fray against Carlton’s Marc Pittonet.

“If you have someone young and raw who isn’t quite ready then you are probably better off giving away the hit out and have someone who can compete at ground level, and then give you something else around the ground to compete in other ways,” McIntosh said.

And midfields can gain confidence and energy knowing that everyone expects one-way traffic.

“There is a lot more pressure on the supposed dominant ruckman to actually perform because they are expected to dominate. If the other guy starts to get their hand on it around the ground they are going to become the story of the game,” McIntosh said.

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Former Fitzroy and Port Adelaide ruckman Matt Primus says it’s therefore incumbent on the favoured ruckman to ask questions of the opposition. He agrees the pressure can build on a ruckman if their midfield is getting beaten or breaking even. The former Power coach and Suns assistant said there are ways teams without a ruckman can make life hard for their opposition.

“You might send a forward in as an extra on-baller, might go wing-on-wing and try to make it a real man-on-man battle with no easy outlets, so if anything it is a quick kick which you can defend a lot easier than a nice chain or nice movement out of there,” Primus said.

Primus said the Bulldogs’ midfield functions well, regardless of whether their ruckman is winning.

“Their midfielders are always on the move, they are changing all the time so they make it hard for the opposition to block space and create areas where they can hit the ball to,” Primus said.

The challenges likely to face the Suns, the Bombers, the Saints and the Giants again this week are huge.

“It is a fascinating watch,” Primus said.

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