WHAT THE RUCK? The Curious Case of the Cats

Published by Damo on

Geelong probably have one of the most interesting ruck divisions in the competition. You don’t know who’s the clear number one, but you know who’s the clear number two.

Geelong were a pretty different, more competitive side when Ratugolea was playing as back up, so there’s a pretty good chance that Esava Ratugolea, pending fitness, will be the sidekick to whoever gets the nod. Who’s the main man though?

Rhys Stanley did it for much of 2018, until his body let him down allowing Ryan Abbott to debut, and battle manfully. Zac Smith seems to be out of favour, and Mark Blicavs has been reinvented as a key defender.

The Cats aren’t afraid to play musical chairs with their ruck division.

It’s annoying on the SuperCoach front if you want to select one to partner up with a Grundy or a Gawn so you’re not spending over 15% of this year’s salary on your ruckline, but ultimately it comes down to a few things; the new ruck rules will mean that ruck clearances will become a much more common thing.

The midfield will have a greater role on defending the opposition set up allowing the ruckmen to bustle through with the ball, or to tap it down to someone, but also defending if the opposition ruckmen decides the ball is his.

There’s a good chance that these new ruck rules call for teams to use an athletic type ruckmen, and a big bustling type ruckmen – a dual ruck setup could become the status quo. So who do Geelong have to partner with Ratugolea, who is probably the athletic one in this equation?

RHYS STANLEY ($483,500)

Was the number one ruckmen down at the Cattery for 15 games, and returned an average of 89.1 – his best return ever in a year. From Round 13, he only had 1 game where he returned a score less than 90, and it was a 39 in the game he got injured in, ending his season. Stanley has never completed a full season with his highest game tally at 19. Can he stay fit?

RYAN ABBOTT ($340,700)

Made his debut when the team needed a hero. Stanley was injured, Smith was totally out of favour despite some positive performances in the VFL, and Ratugolea was down for the count with an ankle injury. Posted some good scores too with a 100 and a 110 in his first two games. Wasn’t afraid to move forward and impact the scoreboard with 3 goals in the 4 games he played. Sadly though, when the heat was on in the Elimination Final against the then reigning premiers, Richmond, he only posted a 39. So the question becomes, can he handle the heat?

ZAC SMITH ($330,600)

At 206cm, and 105kg, you’d think Smith would fit both big and bustling as well as athletic, but he’s totally out of favour. Three games in 2018, and no games returning a score over 75 points. He has never played a full season either in his eight year career. Can he get back into Chris Scott’s good books?

DARCY FORT ($117,300)

The 25 year old big man from Central Districts has been recruited for a purpose. Very rarely you see a mature age player recruited to sit on the pine all year, they’re usually there for a purpose. Fort averaged big numbers in the SANFL, and at 205cm, and at that price, he’s one to watch over pre-season.

As you can see, Geelong have no shortage of options. It’s just a matter of who. Personally I think Rhys Stanley gets first shot, but Ryan Abbott and Darcy Fort will be hot on his heels in the pre-season. Wouldn’t be surprised if Fort debuts round one as numero uno, but up against Grundy in the season opener means he’d be in for one hell of a debut.

If you were to go with one of these players, who would you choose? Tell us down below!

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I really cant picture how the new rules will impact the rucks. Nonetheless, the Cats to me still have a second rate ruck division.
Was their (lack of) impact last year the reason their stellar mid-field didn't over power any contender teams? Or was their game plan amiss.
Whilst their draw was favourable, they still delivered a high percentage with their forward line (#4) and back line (#1) performing better than most contenders. So, simplistically, their problems rest with the game plan and rucks/midfield.

Ratugolea is not big enough to carry the ruck .. whilst agile, to me he's only a part-time fwd ruck option, and with his injury problems, not the answer. Stanley is 28 and Smith will be 29 and have had plenty of time to show improvement, – I think we've seen the best they can do. Abbott turns 28 mid season and is not up to the required level to match the rucks in the contender teams.

Darcy Fort is their only hope, and I'd have Blicavs sharing duties around the ground. He has the athleticism to take it up to the big boys.The Cats need him more in the ruck role than elsewhere. Esava can cover any hole created having Blicavs in the ruck.

Will have a keen SC eye on Fort in the pre-season.

BTW – I'm not a Cats fan… so I hope my thoughts are ignored ..


As a Cats man, I don't see them shifting Blicavs out of defence. Close to All Australian as a defender… but our rucks are all over the shop and our coach has no idea so who knows what will happen!


Spot on with your observations Lazza…Cats don't really focus on Rucks it seems, and they've suffered for it, Stanley was always injury prone, even at the Saints, Smith has gone backwards since leaving the GC, Ratagoulea has potential but probably more as a mobile tall forward, Fort is interesting, could be a major cash cow this year if he gets a gig early.


I really hope no one picks any of these guys


Fort on the bench for cash gen would be alright


I love when Godd gets into the comments, heard you're having a ripping preseason mate!


hi fellas, i've had a bit of a play with my team, but nothing serious yet. The big question is the rucks. This shapes the whole team and season. i can't shape my team until i've decided on what to do with my Rucks. I've never gone set and forget and as a result my rucks are usually pretty bad. last 4 seasons my R2 has been TBC, Lobbe, Sandi & Lycett. last couple of seasons have been ok.

Grundy and gawn is an easy choice if it wasn't for the $1.4m price tag. Do i 'pay the price' or not?


my first team has Grundy and Goldy.

there are a few half decent ruc/fwd options this year that could make having a mid-price R2 and option


Hi Derek, I think 1.4 mill is too much to spend on Rucks, I'm thinking of trying Kreuzer to accompany Grundy, and Vardy in the fwd line, depending on how they both look in the pre-season.
Rookies for my mind, almost always disappoint and don't score what you hope they will, so the less onfield the better is my philosophy


I’m looking at a defence of, Witho, Williams, Francis, BSnith, Hanley rookies. I just can’t spend $550 – $610k on defenders


Yeah I hear ya…I've left Lloyd out but do have Laird, don't mind your back line apart from Hanley..just too injury prone I think, thing about the best defenders is…it's really hard to get them in if you didn't start with them. I'm gonna try Andrews this season and hope he goes to another level.


Even Vardy and Mumford with Grundy could be the go.

NEIL demons delight

Been to the DEES training lately and Pruesse has been rucking against May a lot He has had loads of tackling work .Make of it what you will but when he tackles Gawn he has beaten him hands down . Max wont let on but wouldn't surprise to see Pruesse up forward like Cox. JLT will solve a lot/ Leaning towards GRUNDY /NANK would think the cats would go with ABBOTT.who is their best bet despite age


Hey Everyone, Thanks for reading and commenting on this article but I think some of you missed the point.

I never said that any of these players would be a good starting player, this article was purely to outline the interesting conundrum that the Cats face, and I thought it was particularly relevant with a lot of people starting Darcy Fort in R3 (or even in some cases R2 – big balls you lot who are considering that!)

Anyway, I'll have more articles in the new year. Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

NEIL demons delight

Meery xmas to yourself and the JR guys Great start to the season. As good as Fort promises to be How can you go past SWEET .. he is a monster about twice ENGLISH'S weight and taller Could be the next GAWN


I have him slotted into R3. No need for a R/F swing this year. Might have to go a couple of rounds without a captain loophole…or a floating donut to play later…Round 1 teams await.




Been to the DEES education lately and Pruesse has been rucking in opposition to may plenty He has had hundreds of tackling paintings .Make of it what you will but while he tackles Gawn he has overwhelmed him hands down . Max wont let on however would not surprise to see Pruesse up ahead like Cox. JLT will remedy a lot/ Leaning in the direction of GRUNDY /NANK would think the cats would go with ABBOTT.who's their great wager no matter age


Is English your second language by any chance?…if not, your grammar and punctuation are shocking..I kind of figured out what you were trying to say, but only after using my decoder machine. You been to the Dees education ay?….gibberish.

sc tragic

And now Mitchell saves everyone $700K. Bad luck for the guy.


Doesn't save ya much if you spend the money on Macrae instead.


I may be crazy – I have been toying with a Naismith/Preuss combination. Using the extra money to strengthen other lines until I see who will be the standout this year and then upgrade then….and depends if they play


Hey mate, I guess if the points you lose from those two, if they play every game can be made up from the extra premos you bring in on other lines, it's a theory that could work but….how do you possibly afford to get Grundy, Gawn during the season when they're not very likely to drop too much in price and are pumping out 120+ scores every week?

I think if you went with this radical theory you'd have to stack your midfield full of high scoring premos to make up for the lack of Ruck power.