Ben Rutten plays his 200th game this weekend
HAVING dealt with a plethora of rule changes favouring forwards, veteran Adelaide defender Ben 'Truck' Rutten must feel like a bowler in T20 cricket.
On the eve of his 200th game, the former All Australian full back admitted the game was getting harder and harder for defenders, as the rules continued to promote attacking opportunities.
Umpires are now hot on contact made to leading or marking players, whether it be the chopping of arms or a slight hand in the back.
While he used to enjoy game-long one-on-one battles with the likes of Warren Tredrea or Jonathan Brown, Rutten conceded such times were long gone.
"It's a tough game without the spoiling changes [and the] in the back changes and [it] always seems to be trying to make the forwards take more marks and get more shots on goals," Rutten said.
"There's no doubt it's changed… you just keep evolving as a player and keep looking at ways to improve and stop your opponent.
"[When] I started I was probably going to be on one person for the whole game and wouldn't do too much work outside the 50 and now I spend a fair bit of time up the ground and rolling over on all sorts of opponents."
The veteran defender has been one of the Crows' best acquisitions since joining the club as a forward at the 2001 rookie draft.
He debuted in 2003 and booted goals with his first three kicks in AFL football.
He was quickly moved to defence though and a superb 2005 season saw him honoured with All Australian selection.
The '05 and'06 seasons saw Adelaide go deep into the finals; beaten in consecutive preliminary finals by West Coast.
Having lost a third preliminary final last year to Hawthorn, Rutten said the failures only intensified his desire to add a third premiership to the club's cabinet.
"To get close to it last year and to play off in a Grand Final, that's what's driving me," he said.
"I think I've played in three prelim finals now, so just really keen for that team success.
"'05 and '06 was pretty early on in my career and you just expect to keep improving as a team over the next few years, but that doesn't always happen.
"You can't afford to waste those opportunities when you're playing finals."
While critics have highlighted Rutten's slowing pace in recent seasons the defender, who turns 30 at the end of the month, has turned back the clock.
He's been one of the club's best in 2013 and Rutten said the Crows' tough start would hold their young defenders in good stead.
"I'm feeling good, really enjoying playing and the preparation that goes into each week and the build up and the wind up," he said.
"We've been involved in some good tussles and you're playing against the best small forwards in the game on the weekend against Carlton.
"The experience for Rory Laird and 'Browny' [Luke Brown] was out there for a bit on the weekend… you can't buy that sort of stuff."
Harry Thring is a journalist for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.