WEST Coast brought it back into vogue in 2018 and Richmond followed suit in 2019.

But how many more premiership sides will we see with two traditional ruckmen?

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As coaches prepare for the permanent return of football with quarters slashed by 20 per cent to 16 minutes plus time on, decisions will be forced on how essential the second ruckman is.

Where quarters previously ran 30-32 minutes with the No.1 big man needing at least one rest, coaches will now weigh up how long ruckmen can last during a 24-26 minute term.

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"I don't think too many ruckmen will be playing in the one team, we won't be playing too many talls just because of the nature of the game," West Coast's Nic Naitanui told SEN last week.

"It's a lot shorter now and unless you can go forward, kick goals and have a presence up there (attack) and justify yourself over a tall forward (there won't be two genuine rucks).

"A lot of teams will just go with a singular ruck.

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"Traditionally we've always gone with two, as long as you can play elsewhere, we'll probably stick with that format."

Given Naitanui's injury history, the Eagles concede he will only ever be a 60 per cent time on ground ruckman.

But given his output at stoppages, they're happy to sacrifice having a sidekick – like Tom Hickey (52 per cent / 50 minutes) in round one – play on reduced game time without having strong influence as a forward.

Tom Hickey featured in the round one win over Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

It was a similar case in early 2018 when Scott Lycett was required for less time on ground alongside Naitanui in rounds 1-17 before the latter's ACL.

Then with the addition of replacement Nathan Vardy, Lycett's minutes increased for the rest of the season when both juggled minutes in attack to justify the selection of two talls.

With Naitanui fit this year, the Eagles may be the last team to commit to the dual set-up for an entire season.

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When Richmond won the flag in 2017, Toby Nankervis averaged 82 per cent (102.3 minutes) time on ground during the finals series with the odd chop-out from the 190cm Shaun Grigg.

Nankervis' output dropped to 60 per cent (72.7 minutes) last September as he partnered with Ivan Soldo (52 per cent / 63 minutes) in a combination of two ruckmen who rarely spent time forward.  

In the first scenario of shortened quarters in round one this year, Soldo played 58 per cent (60 minutes) and Nankervis 46 per cent (48 minutes), coming off an interrupted pre-season.

Ivan Soldo spent more time in the ruck than Toby Nankervis in round one. Picture: AFL Photos

Given the Tigers proved a standalone ruckman could play more than 100 minutes during a finals series just two seasons ago, it will be intriguing to see how long they persist with two genuine big men in matches that will run between 96 and 104 minutes in 2020.

Especially considering they're two ruckmen that kicked just 10 goals from a combined 26 games last year and essentially only swap together, leaving the other three rotations to be split among 20 teammates. 

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"We did discuss that (ruck set-up) earlier this week," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick admitted immediately after round one. 

"We do like the two rucks, we think all our rucks are quite talented and we've got another kid in (Callum) Coleman-Jones sitting in the reserves as well.

"We'll make an assessment how it goes, it didn't probably work as well as we'd like it to tonight but it's worked well for us over a period of time."

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Should – as many believe – the 16-minute quarters be carried into 2021 and beyond, it would likely have a flow-on effect into the structure of a club's list and decisions on recruiting.

With list sizes (currently 44-46) expected to be reduced gradually over coming seasons, just how many traditional ruckmen will clubs be able to handle?

Typically a club would have three or four ruckmen on their list but now it looks like we might reach a situation where you only need three at most

- One recruiter told AFL.com.au.

Given the Eagles' structure around Naitanui, they have five on their list in 2020. Essendon and St Kilda are the same.

But that could change at season's end as clubs factor in potential new rules.

Again in round one, Melbourne's Max Gawn (96 per cent) had the highest time on ground ratio in his 121-game career.

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And North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein (98 per cent) matched his highest percentage for one single game to highlight how the use of ruckmen may look going forward.

Elsewhere, Fremantle's Sean Darcy will likely be able to continue with Rory Lobb, given the latter's ability to switch between ruck and attack. Brisbane's Stefan Martin-Oscar McInerney pairing will be the same. 

But as Naitanui points out, it will be the Soldo-Nankervis duos who will be tested most and watched closest under the new model. 


Reilly O'Brien, Billy Frampton (part forward), Kieran Strachan

Stefan Martin, Archie Smith, Oscar McInerney (part forward)

Matthew Kreuzer, Marc Pittonet, Tom De Koning (part forward), Levi Casboult (part forward/defender)

Brodie Grundy, Darcy Cameron, Max Lynch, Mason Cox (part forward)

Tom Bellchambers, Andrew Phillips, Sam Draper, Nick Bryan, Henry Crauford

Sean Darcy, Rory Lobb (part forward), Lloyd Meek

Darcy Fort, Rhys Stanley, Esava Ratugolea (part forward)

Jarrod Witts, Zac Smith, Matt Conroy

Sam Jacobs, Shane Mumford, Matthew Flynn, Kieren Briggs

Jon Ceglar, Ben McEvoy (part defender), Ned Reeves, Keegan Brooksby

Max Gawn, Braydon Preuss, Luke Jackson (part utility), Austin Bradtke

Todd Goldstein, Tom Campbell, Tristan Xerri

Scott Lycett, Peter Ladhams, Sam Hayes

Ivan Soldo, Toby Nankervis, Callum Coleman-Jones, Mabior Chol (part forward)

Rowan Marshall, Paddy Ryder, Ryan Abbott, Sam Alabakis, Jack Bell

Sam Naismith, Callum Sinclair, Michael Knoll, Hayden McLean (part forward), Joel Amartey

Nic Naitanui, Tom Hickey, Bailey Williams, Nathan Vardy, Callum Jamieson

Tim English, Jordon Sweet, Jackson Trengove (part defender)