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    September 14, 2023 4 min read

    In the fast-paced world of Australian Rules Football (AFL), the role of a ruckman has evolved dramatically over the years. In 2023, this transformation is more evident than ever, as we witness a resurgence in the art of ruck play. Dermott Brereton, the former Hawthorn champion, recently shared his insights into the AFL's top ruckmen for the 2023 season. Meanwhile, Josh Gabelich from AFL.com.au shed light on an underdog ruckman who's making waves. Let's delve into the world of ruckmen and explore the data to see who's making the biggest impact this year.

    Brereton's Early Rankings

    Dermott Brereton's assessment of the AFL's top ruckmen in 2023 offers a unique perspective. He takes into account not just raw statistics but also factors like the number of ruck contests, contested work around the ground, and clearance game. According to Brereton, Fremantle's Sean Darcy has emerged as his top-rated ruckman for the season. Darcy's exceptional all-around performance has been a game-changer for the Dockers. Leading the league in hit-outs, ranking first for contested possessions among ruckmen, and excelling in contested marks, Darcy's influence on games is undeniable.

    Brereton's praise for Darcy extends to his partnership with Luke Jackson, which he regards as one of the best ruck pairings in the AFL, alongside Melbourne's Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy. These duos provide their respective teams with a dominant presence in the center square, leaving opponents with little room to breathe.

    Rowan Marshall's Late Surge

    On the other hand, Josh Gabelich highlights the impressive late-season surge of St Kilda's Rowan Marshall. Despite being in the shadow of Tim English, who seemed destined for the title of the AFL's best ruckman in 2023, Marshall's performances have forced us to reconsider. Marshall's impact on St Kilda's resurgence is undeniable. His recent dominant displays, including a 28-hit-out and 24-disposal game against Geelong, have not only earned him coaches' votes but also catapulted him into the All-Australian conversation.

    The statistical comparison between Tim English and Rowan Marshall reveals a tight competition. Both players have demonstrated elite-level performances in various aspects of the game, making them the standout all-round rucks of the season. Their consistency draws comparisons to past All-Australian ruckmen like Brodie Grundy.

    Reilly O'Brien: The Hit-Out King

    While Darcy, Marshall, and English have grabbed the headlines, another name that deserves recognition is Reilly O'Brien from Adelaide. O'Brien had a standout season, leading the league in hit-outs with a staggering 888. His dominance in the ruck contest provided the Crows with a valuable advantage in the middle of the ground.

    O'Brien's contribution extended beyond hit-outs, as he showcased his ability to impact games with his athleticism and contested work. Despite Adelaide's challenging season, O'Brien's performances were a bright spot, earning him recognition as one of the premier ruckmen in the competition.

    Other Noteworthy Ruckmen

    While Darcy, Marshall, English, and O'Brien have excelled, several other ruckmen have made their presence felt in 2023. Kieren Briggs, a rising star from Greater Western Sydney, has been a standout performer. Despite limited appearances, he has impressed with his physicality and impact on games. Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson's partnership at Fremantle has also turned heads, with Jackson excelling in Darcy's absence due to injury. Gold Coast's Jarrod Witts, despite being perennially overlooked, continues to produce stellar seasons. Meanwhile, Max Gawn, with his incredible individual performances, has been held back by injuries and sharing ruck duties with Grundy.

    The Rising Star: Rowan Marshall

    Rowan Marshall's journey from being a rookie pick to a potential All-Australian ruckman is emblematic of St Kilda's knack for discovering hidden talents. The 27-year-old's rise from relative obscurity to stardom showcases his dedication and talent. The AFL is no stranger to these Cinderella stories, with players like Stephen Milne and Jarryn Geary emerging from obscurity to become club icons.

    As the All-Australian selectors prepare to make their final decisions, the 2023 AFL season has shown us that ruckmen are more influential than ever. Darcy, Marshall, English, and O'Brien have been the standout performers, challenging the traditional notions of the ruckman's role on the field. Whether it's their aerial prowess, contested work, or hit-out dominance, these ruckmen have redefined the position and left their mark on the season.

    In conclusion, the 2023 AFL season has provided us with a thrilling resurgence in ruck play. The battle for the title of the AFL's best ruckman is far from over, with Darcy, Marshall, English, and O'Brien making compelling cases. As the finals approach, all eyes will be on these giants of the game, as they continue to shape the destiny of their respective teams.

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    2023 AFL Season Ruck Stats

    Rank Player AF G D M T TC K H HO
    1 Rowan Marshall 2802 8 493 126 115 121 314 179 639
    2 Tim English 2730 16 440 145 100 74 258 182 717
    47 Reilly O'Brien 2034 4 286 66 72 66 117 169 888
    62 Max Gawn 1968 10 355 98 44 92 222 133 529
    67 Luke Jackson 1948 22 346 78 81 59 165 181 406
    73 Jarrod Witts 1907 4 290 51 55 91 151 139 824
    74 Oscar McInerney 1890 7 283 42 65 124 156 127 779
    98 Bailey J. Williams 1764 5 295 44 79 97 130 165 634
    145 Mark Blicavs 1548 12 301 65 88 80 154 147 202
    149 Toby Nankervis 1534 3 251 37 82 65 130 121 487