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Naitanui gets the jump on his rivals

Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui soars over his opponent at a centre bounce.

Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui soars over his opponent at a centre bounce. Photo: Paul Rovere

ON THE day when the AFL introduced a rule that banned contact between ruckmen until the ball had left the umpire's hand, a former senior coach reached the same conclusion as many others: He called it ''the Nic Naitanui rule''.

By that, he believes the the rule will be highly advantageous to West Coast's athletic ruckman, who can jump 205-centimetre opponents in a single bound.

''The new rule will go down as the Nic Naitanui rule,'' he said, recalling the advent of a small centre circle had conspired against another ruckman who relied on his leap, Melbourne's Jeff White, who no longer had the long run-up he needed for lift-off at centre bounces.

Naitanui's leap is so imposing that opponents have devised a range of tactics to prevent him from having a clear jump at the ball in centre bounces and ball-ups around the ground this year. Sydney's Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke used a physical approach to successfully stymie his jump in round 16 that prompted Naitanui to complain that he was being illegally impeded.

But the new rule, in theory, should make it easier for Naitanui to jump, since his opponents cannot make contact until the umpire has released the ball. (And he will throw it up now in general play.) Centre bounces should change less, since ruckmen are not supposed to cross the line until the ball is bounced.

''It's going to favour taller ruckmen who can jump,'' said Carlton football operations head, Andrew McKay, who worked as the AFL's game analyst last year and was the conduit with the clubs and players on the rules.

''It's going to favour Naitanui and a [Robert] Warnock type who is taller and can jump a little bit.''

McKay reckons the motivation for the change is to improve the spectacle of ruck contests, since the AFL does not want excessive wrestling. ''The spectacle will be better … the new rule is purely aesthetics.''

If Naitanui will be harder to combat, as many believe, the corollary is that the wrasslin' rucks, such as Mumford and Darren Jolly, might need to revise their methods.

Jolly made it plain in February that he did not like the new rule when it was tested in the NAB Cup. ''I hope they don't bring in the stupid rule that they're trying to bring in now … because that's just a joke,'' he said, acknowledging the rule worked against physical ruckmen of his ilk.

Brad Ottens, like Jolly, was a consummate ''power'' ruckman who deployed his strength and considerable weight to overwhelm opponents in three premierships for the Cats. Ottens, who is a part-time ruck coach with the Cats, said the rule would probably favour the leapers like Naitanui and ''agile'' rucks generally, but the burly followers such as Jolly and Mumford were good enough to adapt.

''I think ball-ups are where it's going to affect things the most,'' he said.

Not everyone reckons the rule is made for Naitanui. One Victorian official said the key would be getting ''pole position'' for ball-ups and throw-ins.

''Whoever gets there first has a huge advantage,'' he said.

This wouldn't necessarily hand the jumper such a huge edge. But getting to position first meant the ruckmen had to move quickly. ''Ruckmen who can't run are in trouble,'' the official said.

There isn't a rule, trend or game style, mind you, that helps any player who struggles to run. The question is whether this one is devised for the ruck guys who can jump.

84 comments so far

  • Of course this will help at ball ups to the Nic Nat Rule, Just another way for the AFL to try and keep the premiership out of Victoia. I have no issues with the national competition, but at least have everyone on a level playing field. To introduce this rule in the middle of a draft period when clubs have already tried to identify their needs for the future shows clear rudderless management from the top. These things should be identified and introduced at least one year after announced to give clubs the opportunity to review the effect on their list. This should not come in to play until 2014 if it is going to. Dont agree with it anyway as I believe the holding the ball rule change / interpretation will eliminate a lot of the congestion.
    Does Demetriou know the meaning of Strategic planning. Because this looks like change on the run - again

    Commenter
    hawker of hobart
    Date and time
    October 17, 2012, 3:34PM
    • Seriously dude you are not watching the same game as the rest of us. The afl want nothing more than to have Victorian premiers if they wanted non vic teams to win they would force all vic teams to travel out of vic 8 times a year as there are 8 non vic teams, but no they left 5and 6 times this year which by the way is a record for any vic team. Even the Hawkes who left vic to play 4 home games in vic only played 4 non vic games this season. In 2006 the afl changed many rules that the likes of Brisbane, Sydney, west coast and port were major losers from the change, hence five years of vic team dominating the comp, you may have noticed that in this years gf Hawkes won free kicks 21 to 10 hence their extra scoring shots. That game was never meant to be won be the mighty swans. Afl want to build a national comp that gives non vic sides hope but one where they rarly win the cup, it is time vfl supporters relise it is a national comp and non vic sides who are disadvantage through travel and players not wanting to play for non vic clubs because there no fame, among much more.

      Commenter
      AndrewJamesUbyr
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 4:33PM
    • What a load of cods-wallop

      The rules are the same for everyone. This is about the 10th excuse I've heard from a Hawks fan in recent weeks

      Need a tissue Mr Hawthorn supporter?

      Commenter
      Johnny
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 4:51PM
    • well andrew, you have really excelled here with your logic. if everyone played twice they would play home and away so would travel 8 times. but they dont. Sydney get 11 home games out of 22 which is very good for gate money as they keep the gate. All teams get 11 home games which is fair. Now if every vic team had to travel 8 times as you propose that would mean every interstate team would get 14-15 home games. National comp means travel mate. You are also well compensated getting the bye of GWS twice EVEN THO the AFL just said top 4 will only play bottom 4 once next year EXCEPT SYDNEY

      Commenter
      hawker of hobart
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 8:37PM
    • johnny johnny johnny - you miss the point. I am emphasising that the AFL are changing rules in the middle of a draft period after ALL clubs have set their strategy about recruiting. Now that changes with the new rule. I noted that there should be 12 months before the introduction. That would give ALL club the chance to recruit/develop players to counter the teams that already have the type of players suited to the new rule. There is no doubt sydney are disadvantaged by it. and the Perth sides are perfectly placed.

      Commenter
      hawker of hobart
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 8:40PM
    • Can anyone tell me if the new rule applies to boundary throw ins as well? This is where most of the physical stuff occurs. Cheers

      Commenter
      Pedro
      Location
      The Outer
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 2:08PM
    • @johnny, yes i do need a tissue. with the warmer weather ive had to forgo my michael tuck long sleever and ... well sniff sniff... what was sammy thinking? how did that ball not go through the goals from capt jacks boot? was cliffy young wearing long stops or did he just fall over? sob sob, i think a nice aloe vera scented tissue might just do the trick, for the moment anyway... Oh why, Oh why.

      Commenter
      hawks
      Location
      200k north of Hawthorn
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 5:16PM
    • I'm all for the national competition but as a condition on enetering what was the VFL, there should be a moratorium on interstate tems winning the premiersip. As a St.Kilda supporter, who has never seen a Grand Final win, I can't help but do the maths of one flag in a 12 team competition over 90 odd years; now there are 18 we should be due in another 100 (given the 20 years of 14 and 16 teams). So we'll claim the '97 flag and Adelaide can just wait their bloody turn.

      Commenter
      David
      Location
      Spain
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 1:37AM
  • Mark Blake, all is forgiven, please come back and play in the AFL! The rule has been changed just for your type of player!

    Commenter
    Paul
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 17, 2012, 3:43PM
    • For all this talk of the 'Nic-Nat rule' and a 'years notice' being the requirement by the clubs, it seems the tall/ruck/KP is the minority at this draft, as it will be at any draft. Clubs draft who they can get their hands on, not their ideal choice for the changing style of AFL in 2-3 years time. A Leaping Ruckman, who would have ever thought ! It must be precious pumpkin time.

      Commenter
      Groote
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 12:57PM

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