The only ruckman to win a Norm Smith Medal has advised Stefan Martin to not forget his own offensive game when he seeks to tame Melbourne star Max Gawn in the AFL grand final.
Simon Madden, the Essendon champion who torched Hawthorn in the 1985 grand final, said Martin, the robust Western Bulldog, had a key role to play against a man who will be one of the favourites to claim the esteemed individual prize come Saturday week at Optus Stadium.
Martin, returning from a groin injury and in only his eighth game of the season, was pivotal in Saturday night’s victory over Port Adelaide but now faces an enormous challenge against Gawn, who had the game of his life against Geelong last Friday with 33 hit outs, 19 disposals and five goals.
“You have got to try and negate him [Gawn] as much as you can. It’s got to be really heavy body work. He does that, he knows how to do that really heavy body work, so over time you wear him down,” Madden said.
“But, also, if I was his ruck coach or his coach, I would be saying, depending on the team rules, anytime you get to run off him and get the ball, you put pressure the other way. If he doesn’t have to worry about you, he can run his own game. If he has to worry about you, his mind is split in two places.
“So, if you run around, get your opportunity to get a possession. It’s always that balance of defence and offence but, sometimes, you can worry about the bloke and not be offensive.”
Gawn’s ability to go forward and create trouble has been on show all season, including when the skipper marked and booted the match-winning goal after the final siren against the Cats in round 23. He has 16 goals this season; Martin, his good friend and former Melbourne teammate, has only one in his first, and perhaps only, season at the Whitten Oval before retirement.
Regardless, Martin’s importance to the Dogs cannot be underestimated, given they have won seven of the eight matches he has played, the only loss being to Richmond in round seven.