AFL 2020, AFL trades, Melbourne, Clayton Oliver, Glen Bartlett, Simon Goodwin, Melbourne results, AFL ladder, Max Gawn

Melbourne chairman Glen Bartlett has hailed the club’s list as top four quality and forecast a host of football department changes in the coming weeks.

But these changes won’t include Simon Goodwin, who Bartlett believes is the right man to lead the club to its 13th flag.

Bartlett opened up in a revealing interview with Nita Rao and Kiran Iyer of the Deeluded podcast, declaring finals a non-negotiable in 2021 and pouring cold water on Clayton Oliver trade rumours.

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Demons chief executive Gary Pert is finalising his “deep dive” internal review, which is expected to recommend key adjustments within the coaching ranks.

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Braydon Preuss, Max Gawn not ruled out of Melbourne Demons’ clash with Western Bulldogs

Braydon Preuss hurt his hip at training but is still expected to be fit for Melbourne to take on the Western Bulldogs in what shapes as a season-defining match for both teams.

Max Gawn, the star ruckman Preuss came in to replace, is a being monitored for his posterior cruciate ligament injury and is still a chance to play this weekend.

Braydon Preuss battles in the ruck with Collingwood's Brodie Grundy.

Braydon Preuss battles in the ruck with Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy.Credit:Getty Images

Conditioning coach Darren Burgess said the Demons had not suffered any new injuries in the win over Collingwood but Preuss had hurt himself at training on Tuesday, after playing his first game for the season in the win over the Pies.

“Max is progressing well with his rehab,” Burgess said.

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Demons skipper Max Gawn is set to return against the Western Bulldogs

The Demons marked a commanding win over the Magpies on Saturday.

The Demons marked a commanding win over the Magpies on Saturday. Credit:Getty Images

“Max trained this morning and trained strongly. So all indications are that he’s going to be available next week but we’ll see how he gets through the whole week,” Goodwin said.

“He loves to play every game, he’s our captain.”

Goodwin said the Demons were building nicely and was happy with the brand of football across the ground against the Pies, who had more clearances and inside 50 entries but were again very wasteful.

“It was a total team performance. Our efficiency inside 50 was something that stood out, it’s much improved … we’ve been building over the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“Our form in the last probably six weeks has been solid outside of one game. What we are starting to build is a really strong, identifiable brand around our defence.

“I was really rapt with how we defended tonight. Our defenders had a good night aerially and got the job done for us.

“There’s certainly a style of play that’s starting to build for us. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. All we have really done is put ourselves back into position for the season. We are starting to execute the basics better for longer.

“Internally, as a footy department, we were pretty strong on that performance [against Port Adelaide], about what’s acceptable for our footy club. Previous to that our game was building … so for us that game was a bit of an outlier.

“It [Saturday night] was one game, Collingwood off a four-day break, two guys down early in the game.”

Meanwhile, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said forward Brody Mihocek was taken to hospital for precautionary scans after crashing head-first into the turf following a marking contest in the second term.

He said Ben Reid’s hamstring issues were also a crushing blow for the 2010 premiership player and the injury-hit Pies.

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Max Gawn ruled out of Melbourne vs Collingwood clash

Melbourne will be without captain Max Gawn for Saturday’s pivotal clash against Collingwood, as he continues to battle a knee injury.

Gawn hurt his posterior cruciate ligament late in the win over Adelaide and missed this week’s clash against North Melbourne in Adelaide.

The Demons had hoped he would be fit to face the Magpies at the Gabba but coach Simon Goodwin ruled him out on Friday.

The Demons, in 10th spot with a 5-5 record but with a game in hand because of the postponed clash against Essendon, have yet to topple a top-eight side this season but are set to be buoyed by the return of hardnut Jack Viney from a head knock.

More to come

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Goodwin wants Gawn protected, Shaw lashes his Roos

“If you cross the line you’re fit to play … but I think the rule would state that blocking should occur within five metres of the ball. When it’s happening 50 metres, 100 metres, 20 metres, 30 metres, that’s a different kettle of fish for me. That’s what we need to stop, and remove from our game.”


The Demons coach said Gawn and Jack Viney (concussion) would be fit for Melbourne’s next match against Collingwood.

Goodwin lauded the Demons mature performance without Gawn and Viney, their captain and vice-captain.

“There is a bit of maturity building in our group, the way they went about their footy … I thought our young emerging leaders really stood up and it was a real character victory in the end,” he said.

North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw savaged his side’s performance.

Injuries to Aiden Bonar (shoulder), Jed Anderson (eye), Josh Walker, Robbie Tarrant and Majak Daw (all corkies) left them without rotations in the final term, but Shaw said the Roos “shot ourselves in the foot” in poor second and third terms.

Caught on the hop: North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw.Credit:Getty Images

He flagged the rest of the season was about providing opportunities to younger players.

“Our display tonight for the majority of the game wasn’t acceptable. It’s not up to standard,” Shaw said.

“The first quarter we had the game on our terms … then we decided to go a different path and Melbourne took full advantage of that.

“In the last quarter we just didn’t have any bodies to do anything.

“We are at a point now where this is unacceptable and it’s not the way that we want to play our football.

“Our members and fans, they need to hear that.

“There are six games to go. We are going to find a lot out about our players and our list.”

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Gawn needs to be protected from unfair targeting, says Goodwin


“It happens every week. He is a target for most teams – he is an outstanding player, he is a great leader, but at some stage hopefully that will come to an end and we can get on with playing some great footy and protect some of our important players in the league that showcase our game. It’s really important they get a chance to do that.”

Gawn said he had doubted whether he would be able to play against Adelaide, but after medical advice and then training ahead of the game, it was decided he would play.

“I did tear something in my upper shoulder region and I had to be careful and get as much advice as possible,” said Gawn. “We went to different people all over the world about the injury and came to the decision I could probably play, and I trained relatively well yesterday.

“The first half it did take me a while, at times I thought why I did put my hand up but I was able to get into it towards the end.”

He said he queried in his own mind the motivation for playing while trying to make the correct decision.

“I didn’t feel it out there tonight, so I feel like I will be able to get up from a four-day break for North Melbourne, but they are all things you have to weigh up – are you just doing it because you are captain? Are you going out there recklessly? Or is there some thought behind going out there and there was this week.”

Gawn said the chairman Glen Bartlett was not the only one to have castigated the team this week, with Goodwin and football manager Josh Mahoney both tearing into the players for their performance and demanding a turnaround.

Goodwin said Bartlett’s comments had echoed his own challenge to the players, but “it didn’t have any impact on our preparation, it didn’t have any impact on tonight’s result.”

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Nic Naitanui, Max Gawn, Brodie Grundy or Todd Goldstein? It might be time we rethink the role of an AFL ruckman

For those who are unsatisfied with modern footy and crave a return to a simpler time, the ruck is the last bastion of what was once holy.

Across every line on the field, the one-on-one contest has been mostly replaced by sophisticated but arguably sterile team defences. Rarely will you see two players go head to head as they did in the good old days, back when it was Carey v Jakovich and not Carey v the entire West Coast backline, a few midfielders and a resting ruck.

But offering solace from those weekly — currently nightly, how fun! — complaints are the ruckmen, their craft relatively untouched and in some ways protected from the evolution that has gone on around them.

Two ruckmen enter, only one can win. The position still carries the old-fashioned mystique, which is why we habitually refer to it as a prominent make-or-break factor in any game.

It also helps that we are genuinely in a golden era of AFL ruckmen.

Jarrod Witts and Sam Jacobs are tangled up and looking upwards at a ball (out of picture)
Jarrod Witts has been among the Suns’ standout players in 2020.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

It’s hard to remember a time when there was so much quality and so much diversity in the position across the entire league. It’s not a stretch to suggest at least five ruckmen could be leading their respective club’s best-and-fairest counts at this point in the season, and the All Australian arguments are well and truly underway.

But, as it turns out, the very same things that so enamour us with ruckmen and their duels make it tremendously difficult for us to properly rate them, and may lead us to overrate the position entirely.

A few weeks ago, Max Gawn — many people’s pick for King of Ruck Mountain — made this point far more effectively on The Phil Davis Podcast.

“It is a hard position to play, because you look at the stats and you literally go ‘ruck v ruck, who’s had more numbers?’,” Gawn said.

“And if you don’t watch the game, you go ‘Mumford 15 disposals, Gawn 10 disposals. Mumford 30 hit outs, Gawn 25 hit outs — Mumford won that battle’.

“It’s the only position you can do that on.”

Max Gawn has a steely look on his face as he walks onto the field ahead of his teammates.
Max Gawn says he no longer gets sucked into debates ranking the best ruckmen in the AFL.(AAP: Brendon Thorne)

Does a great ruckman make a team great?

Gawn is right. We take for granted the mano e mano nature of the ruck and generally rely on strict statistical parameters to proclaim winners and losers, great players and poor ones.

It ignores the fact that a good Gawn game looks completely different to a good Brodie Grundy game, which looks completely different to a good Nic Naitanui game, which looks completely different to a good Todd Goldstein game and so on.

A Melbourne AFL players pushes against a North Melbourne opponent as they look to the sky waiting for the ball to be thrown in.
Max Gawn and Todd Goldstein go to work.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

And it also oversimplifies what “winning the ruck battle” means in terms of team success, giving arguably a false impression of how important a ruckman is to a team.

Let’s try an exercise to demonstrate this — off the top of your head, can you pick the last time the All Australian ruckman won a premiership in the same year?

You can have a second to think about it.

Did you guess 1996? North Melbourne’s Corey McKernan? It’s been a while, hey.

Without reading too much into it, that does tend to suggest that having an elite ruckman isn’t a precursor to or requirement for ultimate team success.

An AFL ruckman gets his hand to the ball to tap it clear while his opponent watches.
Brodie Grundy’s work at ground level sets him apart from his ruck rivals.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Gawn himself recognises that a ruckman is too often viewed in isolation and not part of an overall team setup, arguing that “the more we’re looked at as part of an 18-man team, I find it puts us more at ease”.

It’s quite possible, likely even, that streak will continue this year. Currently Gawn and Goldstein are the two favourites for the All Australian spot — their teams are 15th and 14th, respectively.

Grundy will always be in the conversation, but even Collingwood has slipped to 10th and is plagued with issues on and off the field. You’d be mad to rule the Pies out of 2020 entirely, but they and Grundy are both some way back at the moment.

But the missing name in this conversation is Naitanui’s, which is fitting — he more than any other ruckman sums up the divide between our comfortable analysis of the ruck role and a ruckman’s true value to a team.

The Naitanui conundrum

The irony is this might be the year the Naitanui debate, tortured and ridiculous it has always been, is ended for good.

In some ways it’s easy to see why it has persisted. Naitanui has been injured for almost all of his peak years, reappearing in dominant fits and starts but then succumbing once again.

More commonly quoted though are the many statistical holes in his game. Naitanui doesn’t take marks like Gawn, he doesn’t rack up the touches like Grundy, he can’t be an ever-present midfield extension like Goldstein.

By just about every statistical measure we have come to rely upon for judging one ruckman against another, he comes up short. And then you watch him play. And you see what he does for his team. And none of that other stuff matters any more.

A West Coast AFL player pushes against a Geelong opponent as they look to the air for the ball.
Nic Naitanui is in hot form at the moment, and was best on ground against Geelong.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

His ruckwork and connection with his midfielders creates more pure opportunity for scores than any of his contemporaries, and his presence influences stoppage situations like few others. You can’t appreciate the little things unless you watch them, the stats sheet just can’t capture it.

It’s why Naitanui is currently fifth overall and the highest-ranked ruckman in the voting for the AFL Coaches Association’s player of the year award, having polled votes in six out of his nine matches — only Jack Steele and Lachie Neale have polled more often.

It’s why those same coaches said he was one of the three most influential players on the ground in the round six game against Adelaide, despite his opponent Riley O’Brien taking nine marks to Naitanui’s zero and having 19 disposals to his seven.

And, quite frankly, it’s why West Coast beat Geelong on Saturday night.


But instead of viewing him as a complete outlier, Naitanui’s unique form of influence can become a new standard with which to judge ruckmen. As mentioned at the top, every other position on the field has undergone evolution and, while belated, perhaps the ruck finally is too.

Dustin Martin became a better player when his priority stopped being possessions and became impact, and that switch has inspired two Richmond premierships. Defenders are no longer just fists with bodies attached, they are required to intercept and rebound and marshal an entire team.

It’s worth emphasising that this isn’t about downplaying the ability or impact of the likes of Gawn and Grundy, but rather to suggest that their teams could still be getting so much more out of their immense talents.

Gawn has taken one mark inside 50 all season, and is yet to kick a goal. That’s not because he can’t do those things, but because that is not currently his role.

Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn hold on to each others arms and look up
Could Collingwood and Melbourne be getting more out of Grundy and Gawn?(AAP: Daniel Pockett)

Brodie Grundy has more hit outs to advantage than any player in the AFL this season, but his team is ninth overall in clearances. That is not maximising his significant ability.

West Coast has a clear plan to get the most out of Naitanui. St Kilda has a clear plan to get the most out of both Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder. In all cases, it’s making a difference.

It wouldn’t take a whole of tweaking for Melbourne and Collingwood to start getting real bang for their buck out of the undisputed champions they have at their disposal.

It might not always show up on the stats sheet, but one day soon it’s going to make a difference in the destination of a premiership.

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Melbourne captain Max Gawn reveals how cigarettes and injuries nearly derailed his AFL career before it began

Max Gawn’s journey from lanky teenager to arguably the best ruckman in the game has been a long one, filled with injuries, setbacks and a few too many cigarettes.

Now the captain of Melbourne, Gawn told The Phil Davis Podcast about his early days at the club, and how he slowly found his voice and identity while learning to ignore external comparisons.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
The Phil Davis Podcast: Max Gawn’s journey to the top

Gawn says he felt like a fish out of water in the “private school” environment at the Demons — but a few nasty habits admittedly didn’t help his cause.

“I feel like just before I got there, our club wanted to live up to that [private school] stereotype. Because I walked into the most private school place I’d ever walked into,” Gawn said.

“Here’s me who has come in and was as raw as anything. It was well documented that I loved a dart, loved a drink and wasn’t exactly the most professional person … they didn’t comprehend that I did things differently.

“I found it so hard to fit in when I got to the club. I’m not putting it all on that divide and I don’t think it’s that big of a divide … but my whole first year I didn’t say a word.

“It was purely from the fact that I felt so different. I felt like I was an alien. I probably looked like one as well.”

Will Minson wrestles for possession
Both Gawn and his beard needed to time to grow.(AAP: Joe Castro)

While injury played its part in his early struggles, Gawn’s own personal standards took a while to reach AFL level. It took an awkward interaction with the club’s captain and a sit-down meeting with its leadership group for him to realise that.

“It was preseason in my first year, and I hadn’t trained yet because of my knee,” he said.

“I wasn’t a full time smoker, far from it, but there was a cigarette deck in my car from maybe a week before.

“For some reason I thought I was the only person driving on the Monash on the way down to Casey, but it turns out it was quite a popular route for players.”

Gawn may have got away with his sneaky smoke on the drive to training, had his captain James McDonald not pulled up alongside him.

Max Gawn sticks his finger in the air as he celebrates kicking a Demons goal.
After a rocky beginning, Gawn has more than made a name for himself in the AFL.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Not long later, unaware he had been sprung, Gawn was called in to face the music.

“It was daunting. We had 10 people in our leadership group at the time and I was sat in a chair in the front with a semi-circle of all 10,” he said.

“I think it was Brad Miller who asked ‘are you doing whatever it takes to be the best footballer you can be?’. And I go ‘yeah, I think so, I think I’m doing everything’.

“He says ‘so you weren’t smoking on the Monash on the way to training then?’. I’m like ‘ah shit, I’ve been caught here — so do I deny again or do I go the sob story?’.

“I went the sob story and said my family all smoke — they don’t, none of my family smoke, so I wasn’t sure why I ran with that.”

Breaking through and battling Brodie

After a stop-start first few years of his career, Gawn reached a crossroads in 2015. He found himself out of the team for round one, and by his own admission took the news poorly.

His subsequent form in the VFL was not promising, and at that stage he had not yet come to fall in love with the craft of ruckwork. His career was very much in the balance.

“By round eight 2015 I’ve got my head so far up my arse that I’m nowhere near playing AFL football,” he said.

“I didn’t know if ruckwork was what I wanted to do. I was 208 centimetres but I was playing as a forward. I stopped wearing shin guards because I thought I was a forward, and I hated going into centre bounces.

“[Assistant coaches] Simon Goodwin and Ben Matthews sat me down and had a really good chat. I was able to get away from the constant feedback I was getting from [coach Paul Roos], and they really put me in a good mindset.”

Max Gawn of the Demons walks off injured during the round three AFL match against the Cats in Melbourne on April 8, 2017.
Injury held Gawn back early in his career, but has had a better run in recent years.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

He found his way back into the team in the middle of the 2015 season, and soon made a breakthrough. From there, Gawn hasn’t looked back.

“It was purely just marking the football in a game against St Kilda. I took maybe two or three marks and all of a sudden, I felt like I belonged,” he said.

“A sense of belonging is what I really valued. That’s what got me going and got me sky high.

“As much as injuries are setbacks, I think it was about working out what was going on inside my head.

“If I had have worked out a sense of belonging and working out my own identity and how I wanted to be viewed, I would’ve fast tracked a little bit quicker.”

Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn hold on to each others arms and look up
Brodie Grundy and Gawn are the two leading ruckmen in the comp at the moment.(AAP: Daniel Pockett)

Now at the top of the game, the natural compulsion is to rank Gawn among his contemporaries — particularly Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy, a ruckman different in style but equally dominant.

Gawn says the one-on-one nature of ruck battles can lead to easy analysis, in which the player with the better stats is said to have won the battle. It’s something he says he struggled to deal with early in his career, but has now moved past.

“This is stuff I struggled with and what I once valued as important,” he said.

“It really screwed with my brain in the early parts of my career.

“Now, I literally couldn’t care how I’m viewed around the competition or who is the greatest ruck because everyone can have their day, and I’ve been beaten by so many ruckmen, not just Brodie.”

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Splitting Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy as the AFL’s best ruckman is almost impossible

Who would you choose: Max Gawn or Brodie Grundy? It is 1 of footy’s most requested but potentially most unanswerable queries.

Do you opt for the aerial force?

Or the big gentleman who moves like a small gentleman?

Gawn is Melbourne’s most vital participant. Grundy is Collingwood’s.

Both equally are dominant ruckmen, but they dominate in really different means.

Regular ruckwork, developed

For a great deal of Australian football background, a ruckman’s occupation description was straightforward: contend in the ruck and include the house one kick guiding enjoy.

Gawn is the modern exemplar. Not only is his beard a throwback, but so much too is his style of engage in.

His clearest energy is his ruck do the job. He can faucet to just about any angle at virtually any distance.

In spite of his stature, a large amount of Gawn’s taps arrive from shoulder or waistline top immediately after he’s out-bodied his opponent. But he is no a single-trick pony.

Gawn can tap it ahead:

Fall it at his feet:

Smash it into the horizon:

And execute his specialty — the blindside tap:

The past demands both equally chemistry and apply. Have confidence in and conversation are essential.

Gawn normally has a focus on window of 50 percent a metre or a lot less in which to immediate his faucet. If his timing or positioning is a bit off, the ball can be speedily cleared the other way, exposing Melbourne’s defenders.

That took place a little way too typically very last season, and this yr the Demons have utilised a a little extra defensive framework at stoppages. Their chemistry continues to be a get the job done in progress.

Absent from the ruck, Gawn’s design could be drawn from an old coaching guide. He normally drifts back to include room in entrance of opposing forwards.

His defensive affect can be observed in the figures.

Gawn feasts on rushed kicks ahead from the opposition.

And even if he would not take an intercept mark, he’ll often drive a stoppage — the place his excellent ruck perform will give his facet an edge.

The present-day “third man up” rule has manufactured it hard to curb Gawn’s affect in the ruck. Some sides have tried using to exhaust him by double-teaming him. Some others have experimented with matching more rapidly opponents on him to make him extra defensively accountable. Few have experienced considerably achievement.

The new university

Though Gawn has been reminding us how helpful a ruckman can be as a spare in defence, Grundy has been exhibiting the benefit they can offer in common enjoy.

Grundy prospects all rucks in groundball will get and productive disposals — two studies that are generally much more affiliated with midfielders.

He is remarkably agile at floor amount for a guy of his height. At stoppages, he hardly ever smashes the ball away with a strong fist like Gawn. He prefers finesse more than pressure.

But if his midfielders cannot capitalise on his deft faucets, Grundy is unafraid of following them up himself. He drives the Magpies’ attacking actions.

Away from the stoppages, Grundy assists Collingwood’s unfold and spacing by presenting as a cellular concentrate on.

His motion can force opposition switches and make confusion and mismatches. Opposing rucks struggle to retain up with him across the ground, much like they struggle to consist of Gawn in the air.

The notion of putting an additional midfielder in as ruck is not new, but compared with sacrificial ruck alternatives like Jackson Trengove or Shaun Grigg, Grundy also occurs to be 1 of the ideal tap ruckmen in the league. The combination of his ruck do the job and exceptional ball use make him one of the AFL’s most impactful onballers.

However, when Grundy fails to assert himself physically, it can harm his facet. For instance, in Collingwood’s losses during the past 3 several years, Grundy has only averaged .8 contested marks for each recreation, while in wins he has racked up 1.4 contested grabs.

The followers

Grundy and Gawn usually are not on your own in their differing kinds of ruckwork.

Like Grundy, undersized Brisbane ruck Stefan Martin has prolonged been valued for his ground-amount work. The early draft picks employed on Tim English and Luke Jackson in modern years highlight the appeal of locating “the future Grundy”.

Stefan Martin (right), like Grundy, has been lauded for his ground operate.(AAP: Darren England)

The achievements of Gawn, meanwhile, has served bolster the case for owning persistence with youthful talls. Sides are also having challenges on taller alternatives at draft time, comprehension that you cannot teach measurement.

Uncooked two-metre-as well as prospects like Sam Alabakis (St Kilda), Ned Reeves (Hawthorn) and Michael Knoll (Sydney) might not close up emulating Gawn, but the template for accomplishment is there.

There are other rucks with distinct archetypes, which include the ruck-forward, dual rucks and the all-close to prowess of Nic Naitanui — who arguably stands along with Gawn and Grundy when totally in good shape.

But appropriate now he is a stage below two guys who — in spite of their lots of variations — are nearly extremely hard to independent.

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