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Changing rucks

Ricky Mangidis  May 18, 2017 3:11 PM

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The dynamic of Sunday’s game will be a world apart from when North last faced Melbourne.

In 2016, Todd Goldstein and Max Gawn had one of the most memorable ruck duels in recent memory. The duo battled one-on-one for the entire afternoon at Blundstone Arena, ending with remarkable stat lines.

Goldstein: 38 hit-outs, 19 disposals, 9 clearances, 5 tackles, 5 goals
Gawn: 63 hit-outs, 18 disposals, 7 clearances, 2 goals

But Gawn’s absence with a hamstring injury means fans won’t be treated to a rematch at the MCG.

So far this season, Melbourne has used Cameron Pedersen as an undersized ruck in the last three weeks due to Gawn’s injury and Jake Spencer’s shoulder issue.

Pedersen, the former Kangaroo from 2011-2012, has played in a role which should be familiar to North.

Over the years, teams have often opted to punt the ruck contest against Todd Goldstein and focus their efforts into winning the ball at ground level.

It worked wonders for Pedersen and the Demons last week, and it’ll likely be a tactic they reprise on Sunday.

At Adelaide Oval, the hit-out differential between Pedersen and Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs was a staggering 74-22.

Yet it was Melbourne that won the clearance count 49-38 and transferred that edge to the scoreboard, kicking an extra 21 points from stoppages.

For all Jacobs’ aerial dominance, it couldn’t outweigh the Demons’ ferocity at ground level.

Going into the game Adelaide ranked No.1 in contested possession differential, yet was handily beaten around the ball by Melbourne.

The likes of Clayton Oliver (15 contested possessions), Christian Petracca (15 contested possessions), Jack Viney (15 contested possessions) and Jordan Lewis (14 contested possessions) all proved influential, and it’s those Demons that present a challenge for North’s midfield.

After Brad Scott said the Roos were ‘really badly beaten’ by Sydney in the contest, the test won’t get any easier.

Not only will North have to rectify the contested area it prides itself in, it’ll likely also have to deal with the Melbourne midfielders looking to read the tap work of Goldstein and bring the pressure which underpinned the win against Adelaide a fortnight ago.