MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Brodie Grundy of the Magpies and Max Gawn of the Demons compete for the ball during the 2019 AFL round 12 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 10, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The league's best ruckman Max Gawn says he is "comfortable" with the current state of the sport's combative contests, describing Brodie Grundy's posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury a "freak of nature".

"If you look at the two PCL incidents from the weekend, the Grundy one I think we shouldn’t react to that, that looks like a freak of nature type incident and I’ve never seen a PCL go like that when Brodie was higher than Draper in the actual ruck contest,” Gawn said on SEN Breakfast.

"But the Pittonet and (Sean) Darcy is probably the more concerning one. That’s the one where if I’ve lost two or three centre bounces in a row I’m doing what Pittonet and Darcy do, I’m cracking in as hard as I can to make sure I win that hit.

"That looks like the one that we’re all sort of getting concerned about, but to be fair, that is the only one."

"From my point of view, I’m relatively comfortable with where the rules are in terms of the circle and trying to protect the rucks as much as they can."

 

With serious PCL injuries for Collingwood's Brodie Grundy and Carlton's Marc Pittonet in Round 6 as a result of high-impact ruck contests, the game's laws pertaining to the safety of centre bounces have been thrust into the spotlight this week.

Grundy is expected to miss up to twelve weeks of football, while Pittonet will also miss two-to-three months with the dreaded injury.

Earlier in the season, West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui was also sidelined in round four with a knee injury, while in 2021, Toby Nankervis (Richmond) and Tom Hickey (Sydney Swans) experienced lengthy stints on the sidelines with similar injuries in ruck duels.

Changes to the ruck contest may begin by penalising ruckmen who take their eyes off the ball - akin to a marking contest - as Fremantle's Sean Darcy was accused of having eyes for the man in Pittonet's injury.

Removing the umpire's bounce has also been touted, but Gawn is in favour of keeping the it, saying it can almost protect the PCL.

"I’m a bounce fan, I think bounce brings in some variable that almost protects your PCL, but also gives you a chance against an incredible jumper," he continued on SEN Breakfast.

"If you have a bit of a bounce and variable bounce and it goes to different parts of the circle you can protect yourself a little bit more.

"Where if they throw it up that’s almost a perfect three metre throw where you’re both doing a one, two, three step jump, bang straight into each other."

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15: Paddy Ryder of the Power contests a ruck with Sean Darcy of the Dockers during the 2018 AFL round 17 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Port Adelaide Power at Optus Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The AFL has previously reformed the centre bounce laws in 2005 by introducing a second 10-metre (diameter) centre circle, which was aimed at reducing run-ups for ruckmen and hence limit the force at which they attack each other.

The fruits of the law change are evident, by way of a drop in the number of PCL injuries, as revealed by an Age/Sydney Morning Herald report.

The report referenced a study conducted by sports doctors John Orchard and Hugh Seward with The British Journal of Sports Medicine, which indicated a significant reduction in PCL injuries after the second centre circle was introduced.

"Between 1999 and 2004, there were 12.9 PCL injuries per 10,000 player hours and 5.6 ruck injuries per 10,000 centre bounces, but that dropped to 5.9 and 0.9 respectively in 2005-08," it read.

But further reform on the centre bounce/ruck contest has been ruled out by former All-Australian ruckman Luke Darcy, who says "you can't reduce injuries down to zero".

"You make it a basketball tip-off, is where you end up if you start going down that path. Not keen on that, not sure that’s where we’re headed," he said speaking to The Age.

"In a combat sport where you can’t reduce injuries down to zero, that [injuries] might be a part of it.

"Anytime someone gets injured you should have a think about it, but I’ve been around long enough not to see an obvious solution.

“Two people jumping flat out, even if it’s in a small circle, there’s always a risk. It’s how much of that you’re to be exposed to. Two in a week raises a question, I’m not super alarmed about it.”