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'One of the dominant ruckmen in the competition': Goldstein a towering figure

Paddy Ryder of the Power and Todd Goldstein of the Kangaroos compete in the ruck during the 2015 AFL Round 03 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and Port Adelaide Power at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on April 18, 2015. (Photo: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
North's Todd Goldstein wins a hit-out over Paddy Ryder in round three
He's just an outstanding player, he'll be the All Australian ruckman this year
Sam Kekovich, on Todd Goldstein

TODD Goldstein entered this season wanting to dominate the competition, North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said recently.

Scott was speaking after North's round two win over the Brisbane Lions, having just witnessed Goldstein put in a best-on-ground performance that included 23 disposals, seven marks (three contested), 37 hit-outs, eight tackles and one goal.

"He's looking as good as I've ever seen him and (he) has really taken on board the attitude that he wants to assert himself as one of the dominant ruckmen in the competition," Scott said after the Roos' 82-point win.

A week earlier, Goldstein had been North's best player in its 77-point loss to Adelaide, winning his ruck duel with two-time All Australian nominee Sam Jacobs on points.

The North ruckman has since continued his good form.

He got the better of Port Adelaide's Patrick Ryder in round three, finishing with 13 disposals, 49 hit-outs and six tackles in North's eight-point loss.

And in last Sunday's 16-point win over Geelong at Simonds Stadium, Goldstein received the maximum 10 votes in the AFL Coaches Association player of the year award after racking up 21 disposals (14 contested), 42 hit-outs, eight clearances, six tackles and one goal.

Sack the sub to save rucks, says Goldstein

Goldstein had a career-best season last year, finishing runner-up in North's best and fairest award, one vote behind winner Ben Cunnington.

But the 26-year-old has taken his game to a new level in 2015.

Goldstein told reporters on Tuesday that he had produced the most consistent football of his career over this year's first four rounds.

Statistics back him up.

Goldstein is averaging career-best figures this year for:
- disposals: 16.8 a game, up from 12 in 2014. Previous best 13.7 in 2011.
- contested possessions: 9.5, up from 7.5 in 2014. Previous best 8.3 in 2011.
- uncontested possessions: 7.3, up from 4.7 in 2014. Previous best 5.9 in 2011.
- hit-outs: 40.8, up from 34.9 in 2014. Previous best 37.4 in 2013.
- tackles: 6, up from a previous best 4.8 in 2014.
- contested marks: 1.8, up from 0.7 in 2014. Previous best 1 in 2010.

Goldstein is also the leading ruckman in the AFL this year for:
- hit-outs.
- hit-outs to advantage: 12.3 a game, up from 10.4 in 2014 (third in the AFL).
- score involvements: 8.3, up from 5.6 in 2014 (third).
- score launches: 4.3 (equal first), up from 3.6 in 2014 (third).
 
Goldstein said on Tuesday his pre-season had been focused on making sure he was ready to perform at his best from round one after his slow starts to recent seasons.

Asked about Scott's comments on the assertive attitude he's taken into 2015, Goldstein said he had focused heavily on having an impact outside ruck contests.

"I think the strongest part of my game is the follow-ups and that's been a real focus for myself and my ruck coach Alex Ishchenko," Goldstein said.

"When I'm tackling well and getting the pressure up, the rest of my game just seems to unfold a lot easier.

"I definitely try and get tackles and try to be a presence for the boys when we need to kick it down the line, just to give them confidence that if I don't mark it it's going to be brought down."

Goldstein is confident he can maintain his rich vein of form.

"In the past I've probably hoped that I'm going to get to that level whereas now it has to happen, there's no excuses," he said.

North icon Sam Kekovich was sitting alongside Goldstein on Tuesday ahead of the Roos' 40th anniversary celebration of the 1975 premiership at Saturday night's clash with Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium.

A key member of the North team that clinched the club's inaugural flag against the Hawks, Kekovich was full of praise for Goldstein.

"You talk about being the barometer of a side, if you're a North Melbourne supporter I think we've all got our hearts in our mouths if anything happened to the big man because he's no doubt the lynchpin that gets us going from the start," Kekovich said.

"He's just an outstanding player, he'll be the All Australian ruckman this year."