Australian Rules Football has always been a game for folks of every shape and size.
Whether short, stocky, or athletic, there are a myriad of positions on the ground suited to your body mass and aerobic capacity.
However, should you ask anyone measuring around the two-metre mark, they will tell you their place on the coach’s whiteboard has always been dictated to them.
Having kicked off our series ranking the best defenders since 2010, we now shift our eyes to the game’s behemoths – the ruckmen.
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Despite the fact that some superb footballers have plied their trade within the last 10 years, to earn a place within this catalogue, they must have played at least 100 senior games since the start of 2010.
So, even though names like Toby Nankervis and Brad Ottens have claimed premierships within this period, they are both ineligible.
Without further ado, here are the 10 names that have been more than handy winning hit-outs across the last 10 years.
As always, let us know who is stiff and who can count themselves fortunate.
10. Shane Mumford (184 games)
With his big tackles, big frame and big appetite, Shane Mumford has evolved from ruckman to meme.
Although the Bunyip boy has developed this tag, what should never be forgotten is his career statistics prove he is one hell of a ruckman.
From 2010 until the present day, Mumford has averaged a more than handy 31.4 hitouts per game, and in 2017, the aptly employed Giant recorded 802 tap downs – the 20th most for a fixtured season in the game’s history.
Even though the big man is in the winter years of his career and is no longer Leon Cameron’s first-string option, he is still sitting on a mean of 22 hitouts per week in 2021.
9. Ben McEvoy (217 games)
Tipping the scales at over 100 kilograms and topping the tape at 200 centimetres, it is little wonder why former Murray Bushranger has earned the moniker of ‘Big Boy’.
After six seasons as a Saint, McEvoy traded his halo for feathers and joined the Hawks ahead of the 2014 season. Although his time at Moorabbin saw him produce some eye-catching numbers, it was this shift up North Road that really kick started his career.
Across his 137 games in brown and gold stripes, the 31-year-old has averaged 23.2 hitouts per game, has claimed a pair of flags and was named as the club’s 45th captain earlier this year.
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Even though he spent time behind the football last season, McEvoy is still undoubtedly one of the game’s best contemporary ruckmen.
8. Paddy Ryder (185 games)
Having played here, there and everywhere across his 16 years at AFL level, Paddy Ryder has become a bit of a gun for hire.
After truly becoming a full-time ruck in 2009 for the Bombers, Ryder’s aggregate hit-out numbers have never dipped below 320 in a full-length season.
From 2010 until the present day, the former East Fremantle Shark has averaged 24 hit-outs, near on a goal a game and also earned All-Australian and best and fairest honours whilst at Port Adelaide in 2017.
Despite celebrating his 33rd birthday last month, Ryder’s influence at stoppages is still paramount to the Saints’ performance, with his absence so far this season leaving his third club behind the eight ball at stoppage time.
7. Sam Jacobs (204 games)
Although he was never measured and fitted for an All-Australian blazer in his 12-year career across three clubs, Sam Jacobs is without doubt one of the game’s best contemporary big men.
Originally taken with the first pick of the 2007 Rookie Draft, ‘Sauce’s’ career skyrocketed in 2010, and only ever re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere a decade later.
The Ardrossan native wrapped his career up last season with a career average of 32.6 hit-outs per game and finished with 6,789 in total – the third most ever recorded in AFL/VFL history.
6. Todd Goldstein (242 games)
Having called Arden Street home since 2008, Todd Goldstein is probably considered part of the furniture by his younger teammates.
Although the former Oakleigh Charger has recorded 8,127 hit-outs – the second most in the league’s history – he has only ever claimed All-Australian honours once in his 257-game career.
Since 2010, ‘Goldy’ has averaged 33.2 hit-outs per game and in 2015, became the first player in AFL/VFL history to record more than 1,000 in a single season, with 1,058 at a staggering mean of 44.08 per week.
5. Nic Naitanui (180 games)
After the West Coast spent the second pick of the 2008 Draft to land the two-time Western Australian under-18 representative, there was plenty of hype in his adopted home town of Perth.
Although he only recorded seven hit-outs in his debut game against Richmond in Round 12 of 2009, the ever-consistent Naitanui has only ever dipped under double figures on four occasions in his next 188-games.
With a career average of 25.41 hit-outs per game – and a mean of 25.98 since 2010 – Naitanui has become one of the game’s premier big men, and sits alongside other contemporary greats with two All-Australian nods to his name.
If injuries had not plagued so much of his footballing career, the soon to be 31-year-old would have almost certainly sat higher in our catalogue.
4. Brodie Grundy (158 games)
Although disciples of the Magpie Army may be up in arms about the point that their big man enters our list, Brodie Grundy has plenty of time up his sleeve to rise.
Across his nine years at the Holden Centre, Grundy has won a pair of Copeland Medals, been fitted for two All-Australian blazers, and has averaged 32.17 hit-outs a game – the ninth highest mean in league history.
The 27-year-old has also proven adept at finding the football away from stoppages, with an impressive average of 17.3 disposals per appearance.
In 2019, the South Australian became the first ruckman in AFL/VFL history to record over 1,000 hit-outs in more than one season, after backing up his 2018 aggregate of 1,038 with 1,022 the following year.
With a lucrative contract at Collingwood until the end of the 2027 season, the manbunned Magpie will have plenty of time to improve on these already impressive statistics.
3. Aaron Sandilands (136 games)
At 211 centimetres tall, it should surprise nobody that Aaron Sandilands has recorded the most hit-outs in the league’s 124-year history.
With a career aggregate of 8,502 tap wins at an average of 31.37, and a mean of 37 per game from 2010 onwards, it is also unlikely to shock anyone that tailors were made to work overtime to create Sandilands a quartet of oversized All-Australian jackets to go with his pair of Doig Medals.
Despite the fact that these numbers are yet to be topped, the simple fact that team success eluded Sandilands and his Dockers across his 17-year career is the only reason the Mount Barker monolith finishes with the bronze medal on our list.
2. Dean Cox (110 games)
When you have a midfield fleet that has won a collective three Brownlows, two Norm Smiths and seven All-Australian awards roving your tap work across 14 seasons, it would be fair to say that you are more than just competent at your job.
For the six-time All-Australian ruck Dean Cox, this is exactly the case.
Although only two of his representative blazers were awarded after 2010, the Dampier dominator averaged 25.98 hit-outs, 16.3 disposals and three clearances per game across his final five seasons as an Eagle.
Despite previously being named as our best ruckman of the 21st century and our greatest ever Rookie Draft selection, the Hall of Famer has to be content with silver in this list, as he arguably reached his peak prior to 2010.
Still, for anyone that ever saw ‘Big Cox’, or had the misfortune of marking his 204 centimetre and 107-kilogram frame at stoppages, you are unlikely to forget his supremacy any time soon.
1. Max Gawn (141 games)
Despite tales of routine tobacco inhalation and rumours of poorly aimed upchucks in the early years of his career, Melbourne skipper Max Gawn has gone on to become the greatest contemporary ruckman in the game.
Having played the entirety of his career from 2010 onwards, the former Sandringham Dragon has compiled a portfolio of numbers that blow his contemporaries out of the water.
Across the past 10 seasons and change, the bearded big man has racked up a total of 4,918 hit-outs at an average of 35.13 per game and has collected a quartet of altered All-Australian jackets.
Even though he has managed just 140-games since debuting in Round 11 of 2011, the 29-year-old already sits in 14th position for the most career hit-outs in VFL/AFL history.
With time on his side, Gawn, like his team this season, is almost certain to finish his days in boots around the top of this aforementioned table.
Gawn’s current zenith came in 2018 when he recorded a league record 1,119 tap downs at an average of 44.76 per appearance.
With these numbers in mind, it surprised nobody to see him claim Melbourne’s best and fairest, representative honours and the AFLCA’s Champion Player of the Year award.
Although there are plenty of biases and left of centre opinions within the footballing world, it is nigh on impossible to refute the fact that the ‘party boy come good’ is the game’s most dominant big man since 2010.