NORTH Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald says the AFL’s new ruck rule should work in favour for the developing Ben Mabon.
FitzGerald said changes introduced would favour more athletic ruckmen – and this helped the Roosters find more support options in the ruck for the North Melbourne-listed Mabon.
The Selkirk Roosters had their first official taste of the changes in a Victorian Football League practice match against Port Melbourne at Eureka Stadium last weekend.
Ruck changes, announced by the AFL in October and introduced this pre-season, mean ruckmen are not permitted to make contact with each other at stoppages until the ball has left the umpire’s hand.
Effectively, the fittest ruckman could capitalise on their leap and getting in the best position for the ball without being blocked by their opponent.
FitzGerald said it suited the likes of his captain Michael Searl, more noted for his role as an athletic key defender but who has been a pinch-hitter in the past.
“Michael was good support in the ruck for Ben Mabon as a secondary ruckman,” FitzGerald said.
“He’ll still help out down back but it gives us option.”
The Roosters fielded a young team against a seasoned, bigger-bodied Port Melbourne that, in the end, proved too big and too strong.
They will regroup to face reigning VFL premier Geelong in a NAB Cup curtain raiser to Geelong and North Melbourne at Kardinia Park on Saturday.
A clash against traditional heavyweight Williamstown is lined up for the next weekend.
FitzGerald said the Roosters had deliberately sought practice matches against settled, consistently top-four teams in a bid to hit hard from round one.
It was the most efficient way to understand where they stood against top rivals and how to match it against the best.
North Ballarat Rebels graduate Nick Rippon held his own while emerging players like Luke Kiel, Jason Linke and Pat Nicholls showed good signs.
Returned decorated midfielder Steve Clifton seemingly picked up exactly where he left off before a two-year stint with Greater Western Sydney while former Rebel and Melbourne Demon Lucas Cook worked well up forward.
FitzGerald was also impressed with the rapid improvement in fitness and skill of the Kangaroos American rookie Eric Wallace, who featured in the Roosters’ development league.