The West Coast Eagles have the honour of having, according to Champion Data, the best ruckman in the AFL competition, but it avails them little, since they will be without the services of Nic Naitanui for the bulk of the 2017 season.
Naitanui injured his ACL in round 22 last season. He eked out his best of win over Todd Goldstein of North Melbourne Kangaroos and Max Gawn of Melbourne Demons.
Naitanui averaged 12.5 disposals and 34.5 hit-outs per game last season, so the Eagles’ will acutely miss his contribution in 2017. His hit-outs alone ranked him fourth in the entire competition.
Goldstein and Gawn did outperform him for hit-outs, as did Shane Mumford, who has been working for Greater Western Sydney Giants since 2014.
One interesting aspect of Champion Data’s list of to0-10 rucks is that most play for teams that have not been particularly successful last season, with the exception of the Adelaide Crows’ Sam Jacobs and the Sydney Swans’ Kurt Tippett.
Aaron Sandilands made the list at number four for the Fremantle Dockers. Their horror season in 2016 would lend one to think that ruck is either not so critical a role, or perhaps more accurately, that one good player without 17 others providing strong support accounts for little in determining ladder position.