We’ve counted down the top 15 ruckmen of the century.
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Note that players must have played at least five seasons in the 21st century to meet the criteria and their body of work during the century is also key. It’s not just players who have played in the last 20 years.
Here is our top 15 ruckmen of the century…
15. Shane Mumford
The Kevin Sheedy medalist has caused chaos for the opposition and at times his own club over his 192-game career.
‘Mummy’ is a brutal, unstoppable force on the ground (just ask Mitch Duncan), and uses his 108kg frame to give himself an advantage over his rivals.
Mumford had a breakout season in 2010 after leaving Geelong for Sydney, where he would go on to double his total number of hit-outs from his previous season.
By the end of 2012 he was a premiership ruckman for the Swans in their thrilling victory over Hawthorn.
Mumford moved across the bridge to rivals Greater Western Sydney and collected a best and fairest in his first year with the club.
Mumford broke the 800 hit-out barrier in 2017, a season after falling one short of the mark and has average 30+ hit-outs every year since joining the Giants.
14. Brendon Lade
Akin to Mumford, Lade was a force to be reckoned at ruck.
The Port Adelaide tall was a prominent figure in Matthew Primus’ absence during the early 2000’s and would aid his side to their first ever AFL flag.
2004 was Lade’s breakout year, finishing in the top two at his club for hit-outs and goals while also claiming a top 10 spot for tackles, marks and contested possessions.
Prior to the second decade of the century, elite ruckman were seen to average a touch over 20 hit-outs per game – an era Lade stood above in.
Lade averaged 20.34 hit-outs between 2006 and 2008, winning two All-Australian selections, a best and fairest in that time and playing in a grand final.
13. Stefan Martin
Martin showed promise at the Demons during his five years with the club, but was found to be playing third-string ruck behind Mark Jamar and Jake Spencer and moved to the Lions.
He made his mark halfway through his second season at the club in 2014, where he averaged above 28.17 hit-outs and over 22 touches per game.
Martin went one step further the next season, averaging 32.50 hit-outs and winning the clubs best and fairest in a four-way tie.
Numbers have since grown further as the Lions big-man continues to maintain his position as one of the league’s best ruckman in the air and by foot.
2017 saw Martin boast personal bests for hit-outs and clearances, averaging 35.0 and 5.1 respectively.
Martin is key to helping take this young Lions side places in September.
12. Nic Naitanui
Injuries have sidelined the Fijian star’s career to date, managing 167 games since being drafted second overall in 2008.
It is hard to tell if we’ve seen the best of Nic Nat so far. While we pray we haven’t, the Eagles tall has added an exciting and game changing element to the league during his time in the AFL.
Naitanui joined a struggling West Coast outfit when he was drafted, with the club winning just eight games in 2009. Naitanui featured on just 10 occasions for his side, winning five times.
Across 2011 and 2012, their premiership hopes blossomed after finishing 4th and 5th respectively. By then, Naitanui was seen as one of the best ruckmen in the league after winning his first All-Australian selection.
The Eagles premiership push in 2015 was matched by Naitanui’s growth and dominance in the middle of the ground. The two-metre tall Eagle ended the season with 782 hit-outs , ranking as the fourth highest in the league.
Naitanui missed his side’s premiership triumph over Collingwood in 2018 as injuries continues to mare his career. The star Eagle has played just 35 games across his last three seasons.
Hopefully 2020 and beyond will see one of the most exciting players fit and firing for some time.
11. Paddy Ryder
The St Kilda tall is another athletically gifted ruck mould that gives his side an advantage in the air and on the ground.
The former Bomber and Port player’s range of skills were put on show during Anzac Day in 2009. Ryder was forced to ruck solo after David Hille was injured in the opening minutes, with Ryder relishing the role.
He ended the day with the Anzac Day medal as best-on-ground honours in his side’s memorable win over Collingwood.
Ryder was soon used a the Bombers first-string ruck and ended the season with over 400 hit-outs.
The 244-game tall was a versatile asset to his side between ruck and forward, having booted 172 goals during his career-to-date.
Ryder’s best season came during his third year at Port Adelaide in 2017 after missing the entire previous year due to suspension for the Essendon supplements saga.
The athletic tall won All-Australian honours as ruckman and was crowned with the John Cahill Medal after averaging close to 40 hit-outs per match.
10. Sam Jacobs
A major ‘what if’ for the Blues – a young Jacobs walked to the Crows at the end of 2010 for a couple of draft picks. 10 years on and he sits third on the all-time hit-outs list.
‘Sauce’ thrives on the big stage, claiming three Showdown Medals across 2012, 2014 and 2017 and winning 49 hit-outs in the 2017 Grand Final.
Jacobs has averaged 30+ hit-outs in eight of his last nine seasons and is unlucky to have missed out on All-Australian honours, having three nominations into the initial squad.
Jacobs registered a staggering 74 hit-outs against Melbourne in 2017 and looked to be in the top bracket of AFL ruckmen.
The Giants recruit averages almost 33 hit-outs per game across his 202-match career, totalling a massive 6645 hit-outs.
9. Brad Ottens
A member of the Cats’ three-time premiership group, the former-Tiger was a genius recruit for Geelong’s early 21st century dynasty.
Ottens was selected at forward-pocket in the All-Australian side in 2001 after kicking 46 goals as a part-time ruckman for Richmond.
Geelong would gain the services of the 202cm-tall Tiger at the end of the 2004 season and within three years had created a strong ruck to feed the likes of Gary Ablett Jr., Jimmy Bartel and Steve Johnson.
Across the next five seasons, Ottens had played in four grand finals and was a key member for the cats, particularly in September.
Ottens retired after the 2011 premiership, finishing with a career-high 500 hit-outs for the season.
8. Ben McEvoy
McEvoy initially struggled for game time at St Kilda after playing second-fiddle to Michael Gardner during the Saints’ best days of the opening decade.
An injury for Gardner would see McEvoy called up to the Grand Final replay, soon ending in heartbreak for his side.
McEvoy went on to play 22 games the following season and was soon seen as one of the premier ruckman within the league.
The Hawks were coming off a stunning premiership run in 2013 and looked to add height to their arsenal, recruiting McEvoy’s services via the trade period.
The first two seasons in the brown and gold couldn’t have gone better for the tall, winning two premierships to cap off Hawthorn’s three-peat.
McEvoy’s role at Hawthorn has largely gone without recognition, playing as a starting ruck while being able to share his time at both ends of the ground.
2017 saw the key Hawk register over 700 hit-outs for the season, ranking sixth for the year.
7. Jeff White
The 268-gamer was an old-school star for the Demons in the early 2000s.
White dominated in an era full of tough, strong rucks, using his agility and prowess to get an upper hand.
White moved from Fremantle to Melbourne before the turn of the century and soon found himself playing the best football of his career.
The Demons ruck registered one hit-out shy of the 500 mark and would end the 2000 season as the game’s leader for the stat.
White was one of the Demons’ key factors to their grand final push that year and would soon relish on the heartbreak across the club’s near-successes in the years to come.
in 2004, White won the Keith Truscott medal as the club’s best and fairest and was selected as the ruckman in the All-Australian side.
Sitting at 9th overall in all-time hit-outs with 5000, White enjoyed a stellar career with both the Demons and Dockers, playing 268 games across both clubs.
6. Brodie Grundy
One half of the reason the ruck position has been revolutionised in the last five years.
Grundy is a natural star of the game and is not just a ruckman but a fourth midfielder for Collingwood.
The two-time Copeland Trophy winner continues to deny the norm by shattering record after record for his position.
Grundy is the only player in the game’s history to have won over 1,000 hit-outs in multiple seasons, doing so in 2018 and 2019.
Grundy won All-Australian honours in both of the aforementioned seasons and polled a total of 40 Brownlow votes.
in 2019 alone, Grundy averaged 42.58 hit-outs, 6.08 clearances and 21.29 disposals a game – numbers never seen before by a ruckman.
While Grundy sits outside of the top five on our list for now, it’s a matter of time before he reaches the peak.
5. Max Gawn
Whenever Grundy’s name is mentioned, as too is Max Gawn’s. The pair seem inseparable when it comes to ruck records and dominance.
The Demons skipper took time to develop into the force he is now, but Melbourne fans wouldn’t have minded the wait.
Gawn holds the record for most hit-outs in a season, recording an astonishing 1,119 in 2018 at an average of 44.76 per game.
It’s staggering to see the 208cm-tall star have only 121 games next to his name given the three All-Australian selections, but there should be no surprises when it comes to the bearded giant.
Gawn has won back-to-back best and fairests at the Demons after several years of dominance, also winning the ‘Player of the Year’ award from the AFLCA in 2018.
Both Gawn and Grundy have reshaped the ruck position, basting numbers unimaginable from over a decade ago.
The pair will likely find themselves in the ‘greatest’ bracket when its all said and done.
4. Darren Jolly
Th longevity and success factors give 237-game veteran Darren Jolly the nod for our fourth overall selection.
Jolly doesn’t have the record breaking statistics and individual honours of the few below him. What he does have can’t be registered by numbers – he was a game-changer.
The two-metre tall star paired sublimely with fellow Swans ruck Jason Ball to aid the club to their drought breaking premiership in 2005, his first year as a Swan.
Jolly won his second premiership with Collingwood in 2010 in his first season there too. The big man’s influence was profound and widely praised for helping boost the midfield and help take the Magpies to the next level.
Jolly was able to get the best out of the midfielders around his feet through beautiful use of ruck craft and would play a vital role in both side’s premiership runs.
Jolly sits 10th overall for all-time hit-outs with 4,968 to his name across his time with Melbourne, Sydney and Collingwood.
3. Todd Goldstein
Another star ruckman that has done his job consistently for a long period of time.
The underrated Goldstein has amassed 7,624 hit-outs across his 235-game career with North Melbourne, sitting second on the all-time leaderboard with first-place in his sights.
The Kangaroo tall has averaged over 30 hit-outs in all of his last nine season, with an average of 44.0 in 2015 alone.
That year saw Goldstein break a 33 year-old record held by Gary Dempsey for most hit-outs in a season, with the Kangaroo collecting a lazy 1,058 hit-outs for the year.
During Round 12, Goldstein faced a lacklustre Giants side that would give Goldstein 80 hit-outs for the match, shattering another record.
The year’s conclusion saw Goldstein win a Syd Barker Medal and All-Australian honours as the best ruckman in the game.
Goldstein had taken both his game and the ruck game to an inconceivable level, but it has to be said that season isn’t too far off many others he has had in the royal blue and white stripes.
Goldstein has performed tirelessly season after season with little reward. While he may not have the individual accolades to show it, he has arguably been the game’s best for the last decade.
2. Aaron Sandilands
A 211cm tall, 119kg problem that nobody had the answer to, Aaron Sandilands was a menace for the opposition.
The game’s all-time hit-outs leader with 8,502, Sandilands was a consistent and vital piece to the Dockers across 271 games.
The four-time All-Australian averaged over 20 hit-outs per game in 16 of his 17 seasons in the league, with his debut season registering a respectful average of 18.6.
Sandilands proved you didn’t have to be quick to be an AFL star. What he lacked in speed he made up for with strength and brute force.
His ability to make 200cm tall players seem minuscule and soon follow up his fierce, compelling demeanour by demoralising his direct opposition, Sandi showed no mercy.
Sandilands won two Doig Medals across his career, becoming one of only five players to so. He ended his career in 2019 as one of the league’s greatest ever ruckmen and Fremantle Life Member.
1. Dean Cox
Hard to disrepute Cox’s position at the top of the list.
The tall-timbered Eagle was more than a ruckman, he was out of this world.
The likes of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr have their 6 foot 8 Giant to thank for the years of clean service and distribution during their prime era of the early 2000s.
The best and fairest winner put up numbers that hadn’t been seen before from someone his size.
His use of the ball, ability over-head, football smarts and freakish athleticism all established the player developed into.
His rivalry with Sandilands went beyond a Western Australian derby, it was one of the more enticing battles that fans paid to see.
Cox claimed the bragging rights over his WA counterpart, claiming six All-Australian selections and a flag during his 290-game career.
He became the face of the ruck position for a near-decade and ended his career with a Hall of Fame induction waiting.