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Why isn't this VFL ruck star playing AFL?

Williamstown's Nick Meese in action during preliminary final against Port Melbourne - AFL,VFL
Williamstown's Nick Meese in action during preliminary final against Port Melbourne

THE RAW numbers will blow you away.  

This Northern Knights product is a five-time VFL Team of the Year ruckman, including in each of the past four seasons.  

His 1088 hit-outs and 273 to advantage in the 2017 home and away season dwarfed the next-best in each category, Box Hill's Hawthorn-listed Marc Pittonet (554) and Werribee's Kangaroo Braydon Preuss (119).  

No rival VFL big man averaged more than his 5.1 clearances or 6.8 tackles per game, either. 

He is fifth in contested possessions (9.3) among that group, too.  

What might surprise you more is that Williamstown strongman Nick Meese, the man in question, has no AFL suitors. Again. 

And probably never will, given he turns 29 on Saturday.  

Among those he faced were Essendon's Matthew Leuenberger, Melbourne's Jake Spencer, Collingwood's Mason Cox, Hawks Pittonet and Jack Fitzpatrick, St Kilda's Tom Hickey and Jason Holmes, Geelong's Wylie Buzza and Rhys Stanley and Richmond's Ivan Maric.  

Meese even had a VFL-record 94 hit-outs in round 15 after Bulldog Tim English went down in the first half.

One problem is Meese stands just 197cm – and only when he's wearing long stops on his football boots – and AFL recruiters believe that would expose him at centre bounces.

There are also doubts on the 105kg plumber's athleticism and ability to cover the ground, and he is purely a ruckman rather than a ruck-forward.







Hit-outs 60.3 1st In VFL Elite Aaron Sandilands (41.1)
Hit-out win percentage 60.7% 3rd Of top-25 hit-out winners in VFL Elite Aaron Sandilands (67.5%)
Contested possessions 9.3 5th Of all VFL ruckmen (min. 4 games) Above average Matthew Kreuzer (9.8)
Clearances 5.1 1st Of all VFL ruckmen (min. 4 games) Elite Stefan Martin (5.1)
Tackles 6.8 1st Of all VFL ruckmen (min. 4 games) Elite Shane Mumford (5.6)

But Meese's coach, triple Hawthorn premiership defender Andy Collins, is puzzled at the lack of interest.

"In my four years coaching Nick, there's never been AFL inquiries to me. Not one," Collins told  

"I find we see the modern ruckman as Nic Naitanui and everyone goes searching for that, but the history of the game suggests there are alternative-type ruckmen.  

"Nick is dominating AFL and non-AFL ruckmen, and if you ask any VFL player, the challenge is to ruck against Nick Meese. Nick will occasionally get beaten, but very occasionally."  

Sam Hayes, Callum Coleman-Jones, Brayden Crossley and Connor Ballenden are the best teenage ruck options in this year's NAB AFL Draft, but the depth is limited. Some of them may come up against Meese as they develop their craft in the VFL in 2018.  

"The thing I've said before about Nick is that he should invoice every Victorian AFL club for the assisting of the development of their ruckmen," Collins said.  

"When Nick retires, he'd be my No.1 ruck coach if I was an AFL coach, because of his intelligence on a footy field and the angles he manufactures."  

It is not unheard of for AFL clubs to take a punt on a mature-age VFL ruckman, with Orren Stephenson joining Richmond at age 29 in 2011. Ben Hudson played his first AFL match for Adelaide at 25 and joined his fourth club, Collingwood, at 33.  

There are clubs in need of ruck depth, too, such as Carlton, which has only Matthew Kreuzer and Andrew Phillips, both of whom have injury histories, since delistings.  

That leaves the man known as 'tap and wrap' – for his hit-out and tackle prowess – with a sliver of hope of achieving his long-held AFL dream.







VFL Nick Meese 61.2 11.2 9.3 5.1
SANFL Sam Baulderstone 38.4 14.3 6.9 3.8
WAFL Mitchell Andrews 38.8 14 9.7 5.1
NEAFL Dawson Simpson 48.4 14.9 8.6 3.2
AFL Aaron Sandilands 41.1 11 7 3.8