The demand for ruck assets has been palpable across the AFL's list management landscape over the past 24 months, and it's likely a similar trend could continue in 2023.

Noted as the 'ruck merry-go-round', the midfield-placed key-position role has been highly coveted in recent seasons to see experienced, developing and even uncapped ruckmen find new homes through the many player movement mechanisms.

2021 saw five ruckmen traded, a further two acquired through free agency, and another seven mature-aged ruck options selected through the mid-season intake. A further four ruckmen were traded last year after three were picked up months earlier in June through the 2022 Mid-Season Draft.

The gameplan around ruck formations has become more fluid across this period, with most clubs looking to attain a more traditional first-string ruckman that can share their workload with a versatile apprentice that often moves between the forward third and their ruck duties.

The perfect example can be seen from Fremantle's lethal pairing of Sean Darcy and recruit Luke Jackson, while the Western Bulldogs moved for Rory Lobb from the Dockers to partner star tall Tim English.

Essendon have adopted a similar tandem in finding more flexibility with their leading ruck pair of Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips, who are both on track to reach career highs for goals and hitouts in a single season.

Melbourne have managed to find a balance between the two best ruckmen of the past decade in Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy after the latter made the switch from Collingwood, who themselves have relied on a traditional ruckman in Darcy Cameron to pair with attacking tall Mason Cox.

Venturing toward this year's trade space, several clubs will likely be on the lookout for the best available ruckman in what is sure to be a highly-competitive market for the third successive year. Some clubs may look to lure a more traditional, contest-orientated ruckman to their list, while others may be considering moves for the agile and athletic type that often floats between multiple lines.

A name familiar to most, but not to an AFL field this year, that could suit the former list need is Western Bulldogs ruckman Jordon Sweet.

Sweet hasn't featured under Luke Beveridge this year. Not necessarily due to his own form, but more a result of the aforementioned English, who is seen as the All-Australian ruck fancy after 14 rounds.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17: Jordon Sweet of the Bulldogs and Alex Mirkov of Carlton compete during the round 13 VFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Footscray Bulldogs at Ikon Park on June 17, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

English's vice-like hold on the No.1 ruck spot at Whitten Oval can't be challenged. His emergence as the league's leading ruckman has been coming for some time, and the Bulldogs are now reaping the rewards from their project talent.

Lobb's arrival fills a need Sweet can't, given his ability to hold down a full-time forward role and assist English where required.

While English and Lobb continue to build on their new relationship, Sweet has been a workhorse for Footscray at the VFL level this year to comfortably rank first in the competition total hitouts at 41.7 per game from his 10 appearances in 2023.

His latest outing resulted in 53 hitouts against one of his leading counterparts in Williamstown's Tom Downie, with Sweet also amassing eight clearances from his 14 possessions in the five-goal win.

That performance followed hitout tallies of 45, 40, 22, 53, 22, 39, 55, 52 and 36 since Round 1 this year thanks to his ruck nous and contested work on the inside of Footscray's engine room.

Unsigned for 2024 and with no clear indication of a position in the senior side beyond this season, Sweet might just be the diamond in the rough for clubs to consider when wanting to adjust their ruck stocks this coming off-season.

The Tea Tree Gully junior out of South Australia has 11 top flight games to his name since joining the Bulldogs through the 2018 Rookie Draft for a return of 21.36 hitouts, 8.18 disposals and 4.00 tackles per game.

His availability, limited opportunity, and proven prowess combine to stage Sweet as arguably the leading target when the coming merry-go-round starts to spin.

The 25-year-old isn't alone in being among the affordable and off-contract ruckmen across the AFL, with Port Adelaide's Sam Hayes, GWS pair Matt Flynn and Braydon Preuss, and young Bomber Nick Bryan also unsigned for 2024.

Much like Sweet, Bryan has been a handful for opposing VFL ruckman across the 2023 campaign, with the athletic Essendon tall averaging 35.9 hitouts, 19.7 disposals and 6.1 tackles from his seven appearances so far this year.

AFL Rd 7 - Essendon v Carlton
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 02: Nick Bryan of the Bombers and Marc Pittonet of the Blues compete in the ruck during the round seven AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 02, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Behind Draper and Phillips in Brad Scott's ruck pecking order, Bryan would fill the ruck void that Sweet can't by bringing an ability to play multiple roles as a pinch-hit option to a more senior ruck partner.

The 21-year-old is capable of moving forward and impacting the scoreboard with his traits as an aerial and mobile threat.

For clubs in need of ruckmen, whether that be in attaining a more traditional big man or wanting a spice of spry talent, then, respectively, Sweet and Bryan could be the next names to be put on the carousel.