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The Great Ruck Debate.

For the last few years we've been discussing the merits of our ruck combinations.
It's been a strong debate and like similar strong discussions it has drifted into, and somtimes derailed, other threads.

Just to give things a bit of order let's confine ourselves to discussion of our individual ruckmen and the various combinations, and support players to this thread

Thanks

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #1
Personally, I think the debate is dead already, has been for most of this season.

Pretty much everything Voss has done this season is working perfectly. When we needed two rucks he picked two and we dominated the stoppages and midfield, when we could go with one he went with one and it's worked equally as well.

The irrelevance of the tap and the HtA, and the importance of Ruck 2nd efforts has never been clearer, again obvious. Not weird statistical correlations or complicated assertions of causality needed. Just the basics, see ball get ball, don't stand and watch. We don't need to blame a depleted backline or misfiring forwards on the Ruck setup, all have their own responsibilities.

It is and always was obvious there is no one solution that fits all circumstances, it will always be that way.

The season is long, just like we can't run Cripps into the ground and expect him to drag us over the line, it was obvious he needed help, we need to share the ruck load as well and we need to do so in a way that is actually competitive as opposed to being placeholders.

The only risk now is that a few little successes see the coach and MC get sucked into thinking they have a systematic forever solution, but that's what opposition is for, to disassemble your systematic predictability.
The Force Awakens!

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #2
I probably see this thread as more a place to discuss not only the "one or two ruck" argument but all aspects of our ruckmen including their progress, but tactics, strengths and weaknesses etc....

It'll soon drift down the board if we don't use it but it will keep the ruck discussions out of multiple threads, which some folk find a distraction.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #3
It was interesting to hear Nathan Buckley’s opinion of Tom De Koning:

Rivalling Max Gawn in ruck craft and marking and rivalling Brodie Grundy in second efforts and impact around the ground.  On track to be the best ruckman for the next 7-8 years.

At the same time, there’s a lot of love for Marc Pittonet.
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #4
Good thinking Lods; starting this thread was probably overdue.

Just thought I would reiterate my recent posting, which does not deal with the relative effectiveness of the 1 or 2 ruck selection decisions, other than to highlight the risks associated with playing only one.

I don't think there is any question that we are a better balanced team with TDK rucking solo but I would hate to be relying on that team structure in a grand final or elimination final and have TDK injured without a suitable replacement. Having to move Harry into the ruck with Cripps and Kennedy as the backups might be catastrophic - especially against an opponent with strong ruck options.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #5
It was interesting to hear Nathan Buckley’s opinion of Tom De Koning:

Rivalling Max Gawn in ruck craft and marking and rivalling Brodie Grundy in second efforts and impact around the ground.  On track to be the best ruckman for the next 7-8 years.

At the same time, there’s a lot of love for Marc Pittonet.

Maybe that's the best assessment of where Tom is actually at...
Go 'one on one' (without Pittonet there) against Gawn or Grundy.
Most of us would probably still have him behind, but closing fast....and for the future most would favour TDK
(Be careful not to base it just on last Friday's game)

It's a bit like Highlander..."there can be only one."

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #6
Grundy is an interesting case, because for much of his career like TDK he was dependant on the vertical jump to better opponents, a few injuries have brought him back to the field and now he's become far more active around stoppages and it's giving him a second start to his career.

But Grundy was never a strong F50 presence like TDK might become, historically in tactical utility I'd have Grundy closer to Pitto in the drop behind play and intercept marking role.

If TDK is having problems in the ruck he's a genuine option to rest in F50, and doing so retains the F50 advantage we normally have with BigH and Charlie in combination. But BigH is not a genuinely competitive ruck option, he is a placeholder, and it hurts us two ways when we have to ruck BigH, we lose ruck competitiveness and we weaken our F50. In my opinion that is not a viable long term tactic, it's a shock /emergency option when things aren't going our way. In my opinion we still need a viable option to ruck when TDK isn't on the ball, and on our list the only option is Pitto.

Then we have to consider the Rucks role when someone like Weiters or McGovern is off the boil or unavailable, or just needs a chop out.

Melbourne are losing games at the moment because they have no backup ruck option, not the only reason but some of it, they went all in with the solo Gawn and if he's out, off the boil  or beaten they are screwed.

We just defeated Geelong basically because they have disrespected the Ruck options, at least in contribution, they do use Blicavs who is , but using Blicavs takes away their equivalent of losing Cripps around stoppages or a McGovern type intercept marking player.  Another example of being hurt two or more ways by a simple tactical error, the price is too high.

One ruck can be fine, but you better have a truly viable backup option at hand, or a bit of bad luck can see your day over before it's barely begun.
The Force Awakens!

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #7
Personally, I think the debate is dead already, has been for most of this season.

Pretty much everything Voss has done this season is working perfectly. When we needed two rucks he picked two and we dominated the stoppages and midfield, when we could go with one he went with one and it's worked equally as well.
Except when we picked 2 we lost more often.

The irrelevance of the tap and the HtA, and the importance of Ruck 2nd efforts has never been clearer, again obvious. Not weird statistical correlations or complicated assertions of causality needed. Just the basics, see ball get ball, don't stand and watch. We don't need to blame a depleted backline or misfiring forwards on the Ruck setup, all have their own responsibilities.
So obvious you didn't understand where the stats for RC-HTA% came from or what it means. For a scientific mind, that is very poor form from you.

You've been caught out in the debate several times from skimming and/or not comprehending posts.
You also choose to completely fail to reply when proven wrong - 'i didn't see it' -
Most recently with injuries from ruck contests.
Or when we've played no rucks at all, yet dominated and won the game.

Everything is 'obvious' until its pointed out that you are wrong, and then you go MIA.

You start the fight and then run away.  ::)

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #8
I probably see this thread as more a place to discuss not only the "one or two ruck" argument but all aspects of our ruckmen including their progress, but tactics, strengths and weaknesses etc....

It'll soon drift down the board if we don't use it but it will keep the ruck discussions out of multiple threads, which some folk find a distraction.

For clarification, i've been debating things so long that i use shorthand in how i say things. So this has been turned into a '1 ruck vs 2' debate. In truth, thats not how it started exactly.
If we want to play 2 rucks, we need to have a genuine second position for them when they are not rucking. At the time of this debate, neither TDK or Pittonet had any claim over a second position.
Since then TDK has shown more promise as a genuine forward option......and has also shown to be next to useless as a genuine forward option. The lack of consistency is key.
Both have improved their around the ground efforts, both hitting the scoreboard.......but still, not quite genuine options.

So because of the above, we have 2 rucks who play best as 2 #1 rucks.....and don't offer much around the ground.
Which is how this debate started.

So TDK or Pitto was never the issue. Whoever performs best wins. Despite Pittos dominant form prior to injury, he can not reach the same heights that TDK has done in recent weeks with plenty of career best stats. So TDK gets first crack at #1 ruck until his performance begins to wane.


Another arm of the debate was about which ruck was better.
Which led to statistical analysis of ruck stats.
People who didn't understand it, poo-pood it.
Others debated the relevence of it in the scheme of playing 'as a ruck' which embodied more than just ruck craft. Which was fine.
That lead to statistical comparisons of clearances, marks etc etc, which due to reasons mentioned previously, are not comparing like for like. This is when 'aternate rucks' came into the picture in comparison to what they could do around the ground vs a ruck (when not rucking). As players play different positions. This is more 'vibe' type of feeling and personal opinion.

Ultimately the debate is specific to OUR team, when including Harry+Charlie as fit forwards (and/or when Silvagni/Young are fit and picked) and the overall team balance that is created / destroyed by playing too many talls.

If Harry is out, play Pitto and TDK in the same side. Simple.

Doesn't matter how many genuine rucks the opposition have, pick the best team with team balance for us to win the game.
We are good enough that teams need to defeat us, not us trying to limit them.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #9
So given that what we need from our second ruck is an around the ground impact, or the ability to play another position let's consider this...

DeKoning has demonstated at times the ability to play around the ground.
Consistency seems to be the issue.
One of the reasons used against two rucks is that with Pittonet playing it reduces the impact of DeKoning.

Now the problem I have with that line of argument is that it assumes that DeKoning is as impactful as he is ever going to be in that second ruck position.
It assumes no improvement...in either impact or consistency... that it will always be the case that if Pittonet plays Tom will be the second fiddle with a largely reduced influence.

Tom's improved as the solo ruck, would it be possible he's also improved as a part of a ruck duo.

The balance question will always be this....
If we play two rucks is the advantage greater than if we play one ruck and add an extra runner?

And it's not a clear cut answer...because what you "win on the swings you lose on the see-saw."

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #10
There's another factor that comes into play in this decision and it works for both sides of the argument
That's the state of the list at any one time in terms of injury, fitness and ability to run out games.

As Kruddler points out if Harry was out injured there is little argument about playing both Pitto and TDK

If we have a full list to choose from including players like Cerra and Cottrell we may have trouble squeezing Pittonet in (I'm assuming Tom's there to stay now)

But if it's a choice for the last spot between Pittonet and a Carroll or Binns you have to ask which player is likely to have a greater impact on the game.

The 'rest' for the other runners comes into play to some extent but that would be well spread...and do we want players like Walsh and Cripps off the ground for any extra time.
The rest would be minimal spread through the mids and flankers.

And I'm just scratching the surface in terms of variables
If you think this is a simple 'one or the other'....think again

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #11
Now the problem I have with that line of argument is that it assumes that DeKoning is as impactful as he is ever going to be in that second ruck position.
It assumes no improvement...in either impact or consistency... that it will always be the case that if Pittonet plays Tom will be the second fiddle with a largely reduced influence.

Tom's improved as the solo ruck, would it be possible he's also improved as a part of a ruck duo.

The balance question will always be this....
If we play two rucks is the advantage greater than if we play one ruck and add an extra runner?

And it's not a clear cut answer...because what you "win on the swings you lose on the see-saw."

No, there is no assumption made there.

You assume that the only development TDK can do is in the 1's.
We could potentially fast track him as a forward option (if thats the way you want to go) by playing him full time in that role in the VFL. Play him as the #1 guy and go through him every chance you get.
That will likely get him up to speed in forward craft quicker than playing 3rd fiddle to 2 coleman medalists and perhaps only getting targetted a handful of time in a game.
You can have a philosophical debate on whats best, but there will never be a consesus on how to best develop a player.

re the balance...
This is where a combination of stats and eyeballs can help show a few trends.
1. Our pressure factor is much higher when we are smaller and play more runners.
This is not exclusive to just rucks, but backs and forwards as well. (tall and small)
Its dangerous pointing to one instance and proclaiming a trend but as an example...
Prelim vs Lions
Harry + Charlie
Pitto + TDK
Weitering + Marchbank + McGovern
....we also had Kennedy (slow) as the sub.
We lacked run and pressure and ended up subbing off Fogarty.....which made it worse.
The turnaround the club had was when we (re)introduced run and carry into the side at the expense of taller (rucks+Silvagni).....even to the point we were winning without a recognised ruck at all.
Pressure = wins
This is one stat that seems to be one of the best predictors of a win.
No real debate required on who will provide more pressure a ruck of a small forward/mid.

2. The balance thing ties into the importance of a rucks influence over games too.
This is where Silvagni entered the debate.
Around the ground, last year (no data this year), Silvagni was offering more as a 3rd tall / backup ruck than anyone else playing that role. Look at any stats including scoreboard impact and it was clear as day he was the best option.
But, robbing peter to pay paul meant you were losing some 'influence' in the actual ruck / hitout side of things.
This is where people are split....
Group A - Ruck hitouts are useless stats and the mids have more influence.
Group B - Rucks do matter and can make a big difference, HTA stats and clearance stats are relevent.

First lets look at Group A.
If the rucks don't matter and the stats are useless.....why play 2 rucks? Pretty simple. 1 ruck for 80% of the game, and a backup filling space for the rest of it. Silvagni filled that role, especially when paired with his around the ground superiority by comparison. I use Silvagni, because he was our 3rd option last year. Same could be said this year for Harry....and even Cripps/Kennedy.

Next we look at Group B.
Rucks make a different and we need a recognised backup ruck rather than a fill in.
Which is a fine stance to take. However, when you deep dive into the stats, the difference between TDK and SOJ in the ruck in terms of hitouts was about the same as the gap from Pitto to TDK.....and TDK was an 'average' ruck at best.
But....TDK is still better.
Then.....you include the other stats like clearances and tackles (which increase as a ruck vs as a forward) and SOJ was far superior to TDK.
Ultimately, if you drew out the stats on are we more likely to get a clearance with TDK in the ruck vs Silvagni in the ruck, they actually showed that Silvagni would get more clearances (compared to TDK) than TDK would get 'hitouts to advantage + TDK clearances'. In short, we were more likely to get a clearance with Silvagni in the ruck than TDK...even if we sacrificed the hitout by comparison.
Add that to SOJ doing more around the ground......and IMO it was a simple choice.

So Group A and Group B argued different points, but both pointed to having Silvagni over TDK (or Pitto) as the backup ruck.


Now, the only legitimate debate that is nothing but opinion goes back to what we started talking about......Development.

Do you 'take a hit' in performance now by playing someone who is not up to the output of an alternative? Using the logic of doing so for developmental reasons, is fair and opinion is divided. Its one thing that can't be tested one way or another as you can never do it both ways at once.
Some will use TDK as an example that it works.
I might use Dow or Obrien as an example that it doesn't.
Truth is, its all anecdotal evidence that can prove nothing one way or another.

Throughout all this i've been accused of being pro pittonet and silvagni and anti tdk.
My comments were made with my head, not my heart.
Stats showed it was an easy decision, but heart meant others couldn't accept it.

I think i've been consistent in my comments through the years.
TDK has (finally) produced what we are believed he had in him and is very much deserving of the #1 ruck. He holds it down without question and i'm as happy as anyone......but it was never about that.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #12
There's another factor that comes into play in this decision and it works for both sides of the argument
That's the state of the list at any one time in terms of injury, fitness and ability to run out games.

As Kruddler points out if Harry was out injured there is little argument about playing both Pitto and TDK

If we have a full list to choose from including players like Cerra and Cottrell we may have trouble squeezing Pittonet in (I'm assuming Tom's there to stay now)

But if it's a choice for the last spot between Pittonet and a Carroll or Binns you have to ask which player is likely to have a greater impact on the game.

The 'rest' for the other runners comes into play to some extent but that would be well spread...and do we want players like Walsh and Cripps off the ground for any extra time.
The rest would be minimal spread through the mids and flankers.

And I'm just scratching the surface in terms of variables
If you think this is a simple 'one or the other'....think again

Yes, as mentioned, its all about OUR team and OUR team balance.

Other teams can play 1 ruck, 2 rucks or 3 rucks.....and it might work for them.....it doesn't work for us as well because of our other personnel.

The 'spread of rest' is important. You're forgetting something though, there are other areas players can go other than the bench.
Resting Cripps forward and swapping with someone like Kennedy can actually increase our potency of both players, and the team.

But yes, the 22nd player you displace to play that ruck needs to be taken into account too.

As an example i highlighted TDKs worst game this year (game Pitto got injured?) was when he played mostly as a forward. His stats as a forward were terrible even when comparing to someone like Fantasia and Durdin who are perennial 'underachievers' on the stat sheet. So would blooding a binns in that instance have been a better option? Potentially.
If the 22nd player was someone like Jack Martin or Matt Cottrell though? Sorry TDK, try again next week.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #13
Just a few points...

No, there is no assumption made there.

You assume that the only development TDK can do is in the 1's.

I assume it will be better in the 1's because it's those players we want Tom to develop an understanding and cohesion with. It's a non-event now anyway...I doubt he'll play VFL again.

We could potentially fast track him as a forward option (if thats the way you want to go) by playing him full time in that role in the VFL. Play him as the #1 guy and go through him every chance you get.
That will likely get him up to speed in forward craft quicker than playing 3rd fiddle to 2 coleman medalists and perhaps only getting targetted a handful of time in a game.

I don't see him as only a forward but more a ruck- rover /utility type when he's not rucking-(forward and back). He can also do that Silvagni role now but probably better if we're playing two rucks.

You can have a philosophical debate on whats best, but there will never be a consesus on how to best develop a player.

re the balance...
This is where a combination of stats and eyeballs can help show a few trends.
1. Our pressure factor is much higher when we are smaller and play more runners.
This is not exclusive to just rucks, but backs and forwards as well. (tall and small)
Its dangerous pointing to one instance and proclaiming a trend but as an example...
Prelim vs Lions
Harry + Charlie
Pitto + TDK
Weitering + Marchbank + McGovern
....we also had Kennedy (slow) as the sub.
We lacked run and pressure and ended up subbing off Fogarty.....which made it worse.
The turnaround the club had was when we (re)introduced run and carry into the side at the expense of taller (rucks+Silvagni).....even to the point we were winning without a recognised ruck at all.
Pressure = wins
This is one stat that seems to be one of the best predictors of a win.
No real debate required on who will provide more pressure a ruck of a small forward/mid.

In looking at things like wins and pressure ratings have you taken into account the quality of the opposition.
Where was the opposition on the ladder when we played two rucks and lost or played none and won?
What was our pressure ratings when comparing high ladder and low ladder opposition


2. The balance thing ties into the importance of a rucks influence over games too.
This is where Silvagni entered the debate.
Around the ground, last year (no data this year), Silvagni was offering more as a 3rd tall / backup ruck than anyone else playing that role. Look at any stats including scoreboard impact and it was clear as day he was the best option.
But, robbing peter to pay paul meant you were losing some 'influence' in the actual ruck / hitout side of things.
This is where people are split....
Group A - Ruck hitouts are useless stats and the mids have more influence.
Group B - Rucks do matter and can make a big difference, HTA stats and clearance stats are relevent.

First lets look at Group A.
If the rucks don't matter and the stats are useless.....why play 2 rucks? Pretty simple. 1 ruck for 80% of the game, and a backup filling space for the rest of it. Silvagni filled that role, especially when paired with his around the ground superiority by comparison. I use Silvagni, because he was our 3rd option last year. Same could be said this year for Harry....and even Cripps/Kennedy.

Next we look at Group B.
Rucks make a different and we need a recognised backup ruck rather than a fill in.
Which is a fine stance to take. However, when you deep dive into the stats, the difference between TDK and SOJ in the ruck in terms of hitouts was about the same as the gap from Pitto to TDK.....and TDK was an 'average' ruck at best.
But....TDK is still better.
Then.....you include the other stats like clearances and tackles (which increase as a ruck vs as a forward) and SOJ was far superior to TDK.
Ultimately, if you drew out the stats on are we more likely to get a clearance with TDK in the ruck vs Silvagni in the ruck, they actually showed that Silvagni would get more clearances (compared to TDK) than TDK would get 'hitouts to advantage + TDK clearances'. In short, we were more likely to get a clearance with Silvagni in the ruck than TDK...even if we sacrificed the hitout by comparison.
Add that to SOJ doing more around the ground......and IMO it was a simple choice.

That was 'then' would it still be the case that Silvagni offered more. I'm not sure there's a place for Jack other than on the bench

So Group A and Group B argued different points, but both pointed to having Silvagni over TDK (or Pitto) as the backup ruck.


Now, the only legitimate debate that is nothing but opinion goes back to what we started talking about......Development.

Do you 'take a hit' in performance now by playing someone who is not up to the output of an alternative? Using the logic of doing so for developmental reasons, is fair and opinion is divided. Its one thing that can't be tested one way or another as you can never do it both ways at once.
Some will use TDK as an example that it works.
I might use Dow or Obrien as an example that it doesn't.
Truth is, its all anecdotal evidence that can prove nothing one way or another.

Throughout all this i've been accused of being pro pittonet and silvagni and anti tdk.
My comments were made with my head, not my heart.
Stats showed it was an easy decision, but heart meant others couldn't accept it.

I think i've been consistent in my comments through the years.
TDK has (finally) produced what we are believed he had in him and is very much deserving of the #1 ruck. He holds it down without question and i'm as happy as anyone......but it was never about that.

Re: The Great Ruck Debate.

Reply #14
I assume it will be better in the 1's because it's those players we want Tom to develop an understanding and cohesion with. It's a non-event now anyway...I doubt he'll play VFL again.

I don't see him as only a forward but more a ruck- rover /utility type when he's not rucking-(forward and back). He can also do that Silvagni role now but probably better if we're playing two rucks.
You can get cohesion on the training track though. You want to put that into practice in games, being the #1 target in VFL would get more practice than 3rd banana in the 1's.

In looking at things like wins and pressure ratings have you taken into account the quality of the opposition.
Where was the opposition on the ladder when we played two rucks and lost or played none and won?
What was our pressure ratings when comparing high ladder and low ladder opposition
I've done a million different analysis of these, a lot of it will be littered through these threads. Some of it you can still find the stats and work through the logic of it, some of it are really only relevant at the time.
For instance, pressure ratings are very difficult to find. However, in the moment there is often graphs, stats, trends and discussions around them which can be found highlighting these exact things. I'm sure you could try and find a lot of the analysis from trawling through old footy shows and pre-shows if you had the time.

In terms of opposition and talent you are up against, that is easier to check. I actually did a recent analysis for LP (which he ignored)
R16 - 2023 -
Carlton vs Hawthorn
No Pittonet. No De Koning.
Young, Silvagni, McKay used in the ruck.

Hitouts
Hawthorn - 61
Carlton - 27

Result - Carlton wins by 60 points.

R17 - 2023
Carlton vs Fremantle (@Fremantle)
No Pittonet. No De Koning.
Young, Silvagni, McKay used in the ruck

"We are going to get monstered by Darcy and get spanked"

Hitouts
Fremantle - 70 (Darcy 58!)
Carlton - 18

Result - Carlton wins by 53.

Tell me again why we need 2 rucks to cover for the 1 ruck on the off-chance he gets injured.

We don't even need 1 ruck. In fact we have an average winning margin of over 9 goals when we don't have a ruck.
Just because Geelong lost by the same amount last night and didn't have one doesn't prove anything other than Geelong are crap right now.

So to go back to your quote....
"Heeding the warning of the potentially devastating result of not having a ruck is unequivocal."
The only devastating results i see is on the scoreboard when we demolish the opposition!


That was 'then' would it still be the case that Silvagni offered more. I'm not sure there's a place for Jack other than on the bench
All of your debates above are coming from the 'now' whereas i am summarising from the 'then'.

Thats the thing, its a moving goal post.

Maybe Jack improves? Maybe TDK goes backwards? Maybe we recruit a better 3rd tall forward option or repurpose someone we already have?
What any of that will do to our team balance depends on what our team balance is at the time.

Again, i'm not playing any favourites. If Jack doesn't play again. So be it. If TDK plays the next 200 games straight, so be it.
Whatever is best for the team is best for me.