That brings us to Friday night’s clash between two quality rucks who are also polar opposites.
On the one hand there’s Nic Naitanui, who’s never been a massive ball-winner, but is the most influential tap-ruckman in the game.
Despite his ability to pull off the spectacular I wasn’t sold on Nic Nat early in his career, but after watching him live you can’t help but appreciate his massive impact.
It’s not only the way he brings his teammates into the game around the contest, but also his follow-up work.
It will be fascinating to see which style of ruckman better serves their respective teams and how Collingwood and Grundy, in particular, attack the night.
Clearly teams put a big focus on how to combat Grundy given what a good player he’s been and his next challenge is to adapt to that attention.
Even after losing best-and-fairest winner Taylor Adams to injury, and Adam Treloar, among others, during the trade period, the Magpies still plenty of midfield options.
They don’t need Grundy to be an accumulator as much as they need him to be more of an aerial presence.
While Max Gawn might be a bit of a throwback to that behind-the-play style ruckman, the Demons captain also has the ability to go forward. He uses every bit of his height to his advantage.
Toby Nankervis has also been a real warhorse for Richmond, standing tall and taking big marks in big moments including last year’s preliminary final win over Port Adelaide.
We know Grundy can be that type of player, because of how dominant he was in those back-to-back All-Australian years of 2018 and 2019.
One example of how Collingwood can change things up is at the Western Bulldogs. With Stefan Martin taking much of the ruck duties, it has allowed Tim English to float forward and impact the game as a key target.
Against the Lions last week, he booted three goals.
But while English clearly has a great pair of hands, you can’t tell me Grundy isn’t a better mark. So, the challenge I have for Brodie Grundy is to hit the scoreboard.
Why can’t Mason Cox – who bore the brunt of the promised selection changes at Collingwood and was dropped this week – spend more time in the ruck, much like Martin, allowing the more mobile Grundy to be dangerous inside 50?
It could solve two of the Pies’ issues, with one small tweak.
Cox mightn’t win as many hit-outs, but as we’ve seen when Grundy is on top, opposition often read where he’s hitting the ball.
If that isn’t to Nathan Buckley’s liking, then what about the impact Grundy can have at the defensive end?
While there’s been plenty of talk about Darcy Moore being shifted forward, up against Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Oscar Allen, this isn’t the week.
But Grundy can be more than a nuisance dropping back into the space in front of those big forwards. With the speed of the game at the moment, Moore needs that support.
That’s not to say Nic Nat won’t have a point to prove, either.
In last year’s elimination final, the Pies threw in Darcy Cameron, who along with Grundy played little more than 60 per cent game time but managed to help curb Naitanui’s influence.
On Friday night, there will be pressure on both men to perform. Just who stands tallest could prove pivotal in deciding the result.
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Two-time AFL premiership captain and columnist for The Age.
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