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Former Freo ruckman set for AFL revival

Former Fremantle ruckman Zac Clarke (right) looks set for an AFL return - AFL,Trade,Zac Clarke
Former Fremantle ruckman Zac Clarke (right) looks set for an AFL return

ATHLETIC former Docker Zac Clarke looks a serious chance of reviving his AFL career, just one year after it appeared in danger of being over.

Two "east coast" clubs have spoken with Clarke's management and two others are understood to be doing their due diligence on him after his standout WAFL campaign for Subiaco. 

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The 28-year-old played 101 games for Fremantle, but the Dockers delisted him last year after he underwent two surgeries and suffered related complications with the patella in his left knee. 

Clarke looms as a perfect fit for North Melbourne, which will lose Braydon Preuss to the Demons and be left with only teenager Tristan Xerri and defender Majak Daw as ruck options behind Todd Goldstein.

Among other clubs potentially in the mature-age ruck market are Greater Western Sydney – where Clarke could be the No.1 option – St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Adelaide. 

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The difference this year compared to last is that Melbourne-raised Clarke must be selected in one of the drafts, rather than as a delisted free agent.

His knee issues put suitors off in 2017 despite several AFL recruiters being interested enough to run the rule over him in pre-draft medicals.

But the 203cm giant alleviated those doubts this year, making 20 WAFL appearances and kicking 28 goals for Subiaco, while averaging 15.7 disposals, 4.6 marks and 39 hit-outs.

Clarke had at least 50 hit-outs in his last three matches this season, including the Lions' Grand Final triumph over West Perth, and managed the feat twice more before that.

His ability to complement his ruckwork as a marking presence up forward – a skillset also evidenced with 46 goals in his time at Fremantle – is believed to be one of his major selling points.

The AFL's new ruck rules for next year may also work in his favour, where players will be able to grab the ball out of the ruck with the same prior opportunity as every other situation.

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That change could usher in a return to two specialist big men in the same side after clubs tended in recent seasons to turn to undersized back-up options to spell their top ruckman. 

Premier West Coast operated with two ruckmen all year, while the likes of Brisbane and Hawthorn also regularly used the strategy and Melbourne appears open to the possibility.