DOMINANT tap specialist or athletic around-the-ground option? The hitout king or the undersized trier?

The ruckman is the start of everything in our game, so the team at AFL.com.au has looked through every club's records to name the best ruck at each since the turn of the century. 

>> HAVE YOUR SAY on the who is the best in the poll at the bottom

In making our decisions, we only factored in their form from 2000-onwards. Therefore, the chances of some players could be hindered if they did their best work in the 1990s.

BEST SINCE 2000 Who is your club's best defender?
BEST SINCE 2000 Who is your club's best forward?

Adelaide Crows

Sam Jacobs (184 games from 2011-2019)

'Sauce' joined the Crows from Carlton at the end of 2010 and established himself as one of the premier ruckmen in the competition. He made the Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian squad on three occasions and amassed huge numbers of hitouts feeding the ball to a hungry midfield. He was central to the Crows' rise to the preliminary final in 2012 and continued at a high level, totalling a career-best 996 hitouts in the club's 2017 Grand Final season. Departed Adelaide at the end of last season to join Greater Western Sydney. - Callum Twomey

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Big Sauce takes charge

Crows' ruckman Sam Jacobs kicks a long-range goal out of the congestion

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Brisbane Lions

Clark Keating (77 games from 2000-2006) 

Others have had bigger numbers and greater longevity, but a triple premiership ruckman simply couldn't be overlooked. Keating was a September specialist for the Lions. After the 2001 flag, the Queenslander played just nine and eight games in respective 2002 and 2003 home and away seasons due to injury before standing tall in the finals with his bullocking presence. Jamie Charman (129 games) and Beau McDonald (85 games from 2000-2007) also played in flags, while Stefan Martin (126) was a best and fairest winner. Matthew Leuenberger (108) was another considered. - Mitch Cleary

Clark Keating celebrating the 2002 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Carlton

Matthew Kreuzer (189 games from 2008-2020)

Kreuzer might have endured a troubled run with injury during his time at Carlton, but his impact when he is on the park can't be questioned. The first selection in the 2007 NAB AFL Draft, Kreuzer is renowned for his follow-up work on ground level and his tackling pressure around the ball. Despite the likes of Robbie Warnock, Sam Jacobs and Shaun Hampson arriving at the Blues during his time at the club, Kreuzer has never been knocked from his perch as its primary ruckman. He currently ranks No.2 in the club's history for hitouts, behind only Justin Madden. - Riley Beveridge

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Kreuzer's clean finish breaks Blues drought

Matthew Kreuzer pounced on an errant Nick Vlaustin kick-out to put through the Blues' first goal of the match

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Collingwood

Brodie Grundy (133 games from 2013-2020)

He might still be relatively early into his Collingwood career, but Grundy has already firmly established himself as one of the game's best ruckman. Able to play virtually as another midfielder, Grundy is redefining the role with his consistent ability to average more than 20 disposals per game. He is a dual best and fairest winner and a dual All-Australian, dominating the position alongside Max Gawn over the last two seasons. It takes him beyond premiership ruckman Darren Jolly and the experienced Josh Fraser in Collingwood colours. He already sits No.2 in Collingwood's history for hitouts, behind only Len Thompson. - Riley Beveridge

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The day I smashed down the door: Grundy on breakout game

Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy speaks to Damian Barrett about the game that gave him 'a sense of belief'

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Essendon

David Hille (197 games from 2001-2013)

In 2008 Hille became Essendon's first ruckman to win a club best and fairest since club legend Simon Madden in the Bombers' 1984 premiership season. It was Hille's best year of his career, averaging 16 disposals, 18 hitouts and booting 19 goals in an impressive campaign. He was a long-kicking athletic big man who could be used as a forward option – he finished his career with 153 goals. Just when Hille looked set to elevate further, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Anzac Day in 2009. He also captained the Bombers in 2006 when Matthew Lloyd missed most of the year with injury. - Callum Twomey

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BOMBERS David Hille Highlights

BOMBERS David Hille Highlights

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Fremantle

Aaron Sandilands (271 games from 2003-2019) 

The recently retired champion is easily the Dockers' best ever ruckman and is one of the all-time great rookie list success stories. The equal tallest player to play in the AFL went on to become a four-time All-Australian and two-time Doig medallist – even beating Nat Fyfe to the award in a Brownlow Medal year (2015). Sandilands became one of the game's most dominant big men and fell agonisingly close to cracking 1000 hitouts during the 2015 season (998). Recurring calf injuries saw the star play just 32 games in his final four seasons. - Chris Correia

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Sandi smokes Saints in Dockers' big win

Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands was dominant in the ruck and around the ground for his side

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Geelong Cats

Brad Ottens (116 games from 2005-2011)  

Former captain Steven King was a dual best and fairest, All-Australian and member of the 2007 flag but narrowly misses out because Ottens lifted the silverware three times. Arriving as an All-Australian from Richmond, Ottens took time to find his feet in his first two seasons playing in tandem with King. The former Tiger then played one of the great individual games in the 2007 preliminary final to get Geelong into the decider. He returned from injury to be the best ruckman on the ground in the 2009 premiership, before notching 500 hit-outs in the 2011 season that finished with glory in his final match. - Mitch Cleary

Gold Coast Suns

Jarrod Witts (63 games from 2017-2020)

After being largely a back-up ruckman at Collingwood, Witts headed north to the Suns for the 2017 season and has become a dominant tap specialist. Witts took over the Suns' co-captaincy for the 2019 season and claimed its best and fairest last year as well, recording a huge 1008 hitouts for the season, at an average of 46 a game. Witts last year had 69 hitouts against Greater Western Sydney in what is a club record for the Suns. - Callum Twomey

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The Data Game: The surprising ruckman who set a new record in 2019

Gold Coast best and fairest Jarrod Witts is proving to be elite in the ruck duels

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GWS Giants

Shane Mumford (92 games from 2014-2020)

Mumford made the switch from Sydney to its crosstown rivals at the end of 2013 and has been the most influential ruckman in the club's history. The bullocking big man proved to be a crucial piece in the Giants' rise up the ladder, adding a competitive and forceful presence to a young group. He came out of retirement to play 20 games last season as the Giants made it to their first ever Grand Final, averaging 31 hitouts a game. The Giants have used a number of rucks through their time in the AFL but Mumford is the most dominant. - Callum Twomey

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Mummy throws his weight around

Shane Mumford delivers a strong bump to opposition ruckman Stefan Martin

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Hawthorn

Ben McEvoy (116 games from 2014-present)

There are probably three contenders – McEvoy, David Hale and Peter Everitt – but only one right answer. David Hale was a great addition from North Melbourne, playing in four straight Grand Finals for three premierships. However, both Hale and Everitt were ruck-forwards. Everitt was a solid contributor at the Hawks despite being past his peak but another ex-Saint, McEvoy, had the greatest impact. He played in flags in his first two years in brown and gold and was in the top handful of ruckmen in the AFL for his steady tapwork, mobility, contested marking and deadeye set-shot kicking until his switch into defence. - Marc McGowan

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Big Boy's silver service to Schoey

Ben McEvoy smartly taps a ball to Ryan Schoenmakers for an open goal

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Melbourne

Max Gawn (121 games from 2011-present)

The Demons' penchant for producing quality ruckmen didn't end when Brownlow medallist Jim Stynes' career ended in 1998. Jeff White (2004) – after starting at Fremantle as a No.1 draft pick – Mark Jamar (2010) and Gawn (2016, 2018 and 2019) all earned All-Australian selection as Melbourne's No.1 ruckman this century. But how can you go past 208cm Gawn, who's blossomed from an undisciplined kid with ACL setbacks into a ruck great and the Dees' captain? He won the AFL Coaches' Association Champion Player of the Year in 2018 and is also a dual Melbourne best and fairest. - Marc McGowan

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The great Gawn

Max Gawn has an influential day filled with great goals, hit-outs and a stoush with a fan

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North Melbourne

Todd Goldstein (235 games from 2008-present)

The Roos spent top-10 picks on ruckmen in 2001 and 2002 but it was the man who slid to No.37 in 2006 who shone brightest. David Hale and Hamish McIntosh were serviceable before Goldstein usurped them. The likes of Matthew 'Spider' Burton and Mark Porter were also tried, while Drew Petrie spent time in the ruck as well. Goldstein was the Roos' clear-cut No.1 ruckman by 2011 and hasn't averaged fewer than 30 hitouts in any season since, including being the first player to amass 1000 in a single year in 2015, when he was an All-Australian and won the Syd Barker Medal. - Marc McGowan

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Goldstein does it all himself

Todd Goldstein has decided to do it alone as he grabbed the ball straight out of the ruck before snapping it through

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Brendon Lade (169 games from 2000-2009)

Lade narrowly pips former skipper Matthew Primus and fellow premiership player Dean Brogan, having played the bulk of his career on this side of the turn of the century. He played an integral role in the club's inaugural AFL flag in 2004, before winning the best and fairest in 2006. He was a dual All-Australian in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007, while his ability to also push forward and become a consistent goal threat made him a versatile option throughout his career. He currently ranks No.1 in Port Adelaide's history for hitouts in the AFL era. - Riley Beveridge

Former Power ruckman Brendon Lade. Picture: AFL Photos

 

Richmond

Brad Ottens (95 games from 2000-2004)

Despite playing predominately as a forward and back-up ruck to Brendon Gale and later Greg Stafford, Ottens actually lead the team for hitouts in every season bar '03 when injury restricted him to just 12 matches. Produced his best season in Tiger colours in 2001 when he was selected in the All-Australian team as the back-up ruck/third tall forward option. Would later become a three-time premiership player as Geelong's No.1 ruck. Gets the nod over Toby Nankervis, who has been a key contributor to the Tigers' recent success, but only has two very good seasons to his name with Ivan Soldo carrying the ruck last year. - Ben Sutton

Brad Ottens competing for a hitout with Swan Barry Hall in the 2004 season. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda

Ben McEvoy (91 games from 2008-2013) 

Remarkably, the Saints had 11 different ruckmen lead their season hit-outs in the 20 years to start the century. While Michael Gardiner and Steven King, both played in Grand Finals across 2009-2010, McEvoy was the Saints' most consistent big man before he was traded to Hawthorn. Peter Everitt won the Saints' best and fairest in 2001 but just missed out to McEvoy because he only played 48 games in the century before he too was traded to Hawthorn. Justin Koschitzke was rated as a forward. - Mitch Cleary

Sydney Swans

Darren Jolly (118 games from 2005-2009)

The Swans had various ruckmen play in Grand Finals this century, including Jolly, Stephen Doyle, Mike Pyke, Shane Mumford and Sam Naismith. They also had ruck-forwards Kurt Tippett, Jason Ball and Peter Everitt, while Callum Sinclair went from that dual role to the No.1 mantle during Naismith's knee-related absence. Champion utility Adam Goodes was the 2003 All-Australian ruckman, too. It came down to Jolly and Pyke, who both made more than 100 appearances for Sydney. Jolly played in the 2005 and 2006 Grand Finals and was a consistent and durable ruckman named in the 40-man All-Australian squad in his first season with Collingwood in 2010 after departing the Swans. - Marc McGowan

Darren Jolly helped the Swans break their premiership drought in 2005. Picture: AFL Photos

 

West Coast Eagles

Dean Cox (290 games from 2001-2014)

A once-in-a-generation ruckman who will be the best big man in this column. The six-time All-Australian changed the requirements of the modern-day ruckman and acted as an midfielder alongside greats Chris Judd, Ben Cousins, Daniel Kerr in a fearsome onball unit. Cox tasted premiership success in 2005 and won the club's best and fairest in 2008. Nic Naitanui's influence at stoppages would have him in consideration at most other club's for this debate but couldn't get in the conversation besides Cox. - Mitch Cleary

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The very best of Dean Cox

Watch the amazing showreel of retiring West Coast great Dean Cox

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Western Bulldogs

Luke Darcy (131 games from 2000-2007)

Darcy might have played a fair portion of his Western Bulldogs career before 2000, but it was arguably after the turn of the century where the father-son pick enjoyed his best football. He won the club's best and fairest in 2001, before sharing the AFL Players' Association MVP award with Michael Voss the following season. It was during that campaign where he averaged more than 20 disposals and a goal per game to also earn All-Australian honours. He narrowly pips Will Minson, who ranks No.1 in the club's history for hitouts. - Riley Beveridge

Former Bulldogs ruckman Luke Darcy. PIcture: AFL Photos