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Ranking the top five ruckman in the AFL
The ruck position has become as vital as ever in 2021, with clubs now looking to bolster their tall stocks for the future in order to swim with the AFL's new tactical trend.
With the ruck position a focal point of the off-season, we rank the best five ruckmen from the 2021 season.
The Demons skipper was able to lead his side to premiership glory in 2021, snapping the Demons' prem flag drought in defeating the Bulldogs at Optus Stadium.
While the premiership cup will be his most beloved accolade, Gawn has managed to amass an illustrious career in the red and blue across 159 games.
2021 saw Gawn add a fifth All-Australian selection to add to his AFLCA Champion Player of the Year honours from 2018.
Gawn will also be in line to receive his third Keith Truscott Medal this year at Melbourne's best and fairest count, however will have competition from the likes of Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca, with the duo the likely favourites in sports betting.
The 29-year-old led the AFL for hit-outs this season, recording 704 for the year at an average of 32 per game.
The Eagles big man partnered Gawn in the 2021 All-Australian side, his third blazer and second consecutive nod.
This year also saw Naitanui secure back-to-back John Worsfold Medals following another stellar season in the blue and gold, averaging 31.23 hit-outs per game.
The Eagles' midfield feeds off Naitanui tap-ruck dominance, with the Swan Districts product also able to capitalise on a loose ball and give his forwards early use from the clearance.
For West Coast to make a return to the top-eight next season, they will be hoping Naitanui is fit and firing in the ruck.
The Collingwood star took a step backwards in 2021, however his pedigree in the league places him as one of the most versatile talls in the league, being able to move across the ground and accurately use the ball.
Grundy led the league this season for hit-outs per game, averaging 32.40 from each outing in a season the Magpies will be looking to quickly put in the rear-vision mirror.
The 27-year-old will be eyeing a return to his form of 2018 and 2019, a span that saw him earn two All-Australian selections and consecutive Copeland Trophies at the Holden Centre.
Grundy showed plenty of poise and professionalism this season, with a string of injuries having some effect on his campaign.
One of the breakout players of the season, Darcy took his game to new heights to aid the Dockers' push toward the top-eight.
With a midfield group on the rise, Darcy was able to feed the circling stars at his feet for the betterment of his side, ranking elite for hit-outs to advantage, clearances and disposals for his position.
At just 23-years of age, Darcy is emerging as a future All-Australian selection at the ruck position and will be key in Fremantle making their return to the September action.
The Crows tall has emerged as a diamond in the rough at West Lakes over the course of the past several seasons, with O'Brien even claiming the 2020 Malcolm Blight Medal.
O'Brien is averaging close to 30 hit-outs per game across his 57-game career with Adelaide, giving his midfielders great access at the coalface.
A breakout campaign in 2019 saw O'Brien record close to 600 hit-outs from his 18 appearances, cementing his place as the No.1 ruckman for Adelaide for the years to come.