#12 Most Relevant | Max Gawn


Max Gawn is an iconic figure in the AFL, embodying the quintessential ruckman with his towering presence, exceptional athleticism, and unmatched ruck craft. Renowned for his ability to dominate hitouts, Gawn’s influence extends far beyond the ruck contests; he’s equally adept at impacting play around the ground through his marking, ball use, and surprising agility for a player of his size. His leadership on and off the field, his competitive nature, and his football intelligence make him a pivotal player for Melbourne.

Gawn’s knack for clutch moments, whether taking critical marks or kicking timely goals, showcases his versatility and importance to his team’s structure. Beyond his physical attributes, his game awareness and strategic thinking set him apart, making him one of the most respected and impactful ruckmen in the modern game.

The 2023 season didn’t unfold as Max Gawn or his fantasy owners might have anticipated, marking it as a year of challenges and adjustments for the Melbourne Demons’ ruckman. It was a season that saw Gawn navigating through a knee injury that sidelined him for three weeks, grappling with the dynamics of a ruck share with Brodie Grundy, and experiencing another early exit from the finals. As a result, Gawn recorded his lowest seasonal averages in both AFLFantasy and SuperCoach since 2017, illustrating the impact of these hurdles on his fantasy performance.

In AFLFantasy, Gawn averaged 92.1 points, with six scores reaching the century mark, including two surpassing 120 points—one being a career-high score of 162. Despite posting three scores under 80, one directly influenced by an in-game injury, Gawn still managed to rank 6th overall among rucks. Similarly, in SuperCoach, he maintained an average of 104.4 points, notching up nine tons, six of which were over 120 points, highlighted by a 174 against Richmond and a career-best 215 versus Brisbane. Like in AFLFantasy, three of his scores dipped below 80, with one affected by injury, yet he still secured the 6th spot in the ruck rankings.

Two significant areas highlight where Gawn could present valuable financial gains and potential scoring upside for fantasy owners. The first area of opportunity arises from an early-season game where Gawn was subbed out due to a knee injury caused by friendly fire from teammate Jack Viney. By adjusting for this injury-impacted score, Gawn’s averages could increase by approximately four points per game in AFLFantasy and five in SuperCoach, offering a glimpse into the value adjustment potential.

The second, perhaps more crucial, area of upside lies in Gawn’s performance as the sole ruckman. In the six matches where Gawn operated without sharing ruck duties with Grundy, he demonstrated his elite scoring capability, averaging 113.2 in AFLFantasy and an impressive 132.5 in SuperCoach. This performance level mirrors Gawn’s dominance between 2018 and 2020, during which he enjoyed a monopoly over Melbourne’s ruck responsibilities. These insights suggest that when in the familiar role of sole ruckman, Gawn can not only recapture his form but also offer significant scoring and financial value to fantasy owners, making him a player to watch closely in the upcoming season.

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The prospect of Max Gawn reverting to his role as Melbourne’s sole ruckman is a tantalizing scenario for fantasy coaches, harking back to days when Gawn’s towering presence was felt across every centimetre of the ground with over 80% attendance at centre bounce attendances (CBAs).

This shift marks a return to a structure that historically maximized Gawn’s fantasy output, promising significant potential for the upcoming season. With Melbourne’s ruck options thinned, Gawn’s return to a predominant ruck role could reignite his fantasy dominance.

The ruck position presents a wealth of strategic combinations for fantasy coaches, with Tim English, Tristan Xerri, Brodie Grundy, Max Gawn, and Rowan Marshall forming the top tier of choices. Each pairing from this group offers a compelling narrative of strength and potential, allowing for diverse strategies and team structures.

While Grundy’s partnership with Gawn last season provided a means to manage Gawn’s workload rather than enhance his scoring, it raises questions about Gawn’s capacity to shoulder the ruck duties predominantly across a demanding 23-week season, especially considering Melbourne’s lack of depth in ruck options.

The bye rounds present another strategic layer for coaches to navigate. Gawn’s early bye in round 6, followed by a second bye in round 14, coincides closely with Brodie Grundy’s byes, prompting coaches to consider ruck strategy carefully. Potential offsets for these bye weeks could come in the form of Toby Conway and Jordan Sweet, who, despite being slightly pricier bench options in AFLFantasy, offer cash-generation opportunities and coverage during the primary rucks’ absences.

Moreover, Gawn’s role as a premium ruckman extends beyond just holding value across the season; he also serves as a strategic parachute. Coaches dissatisfied with Gawn’s performance or those who perceive English and Marshall, the top two rucks from the previous year, as superior options can consider trading Gawn as part of a strategic maneuver to optimize their ruck positions.

The anticipation surrounding Gawn’s return to the forefront of Melbourne’s ruck strategy is palpable. His high-scoring potential, combined with the strategic nuances of ruck combinations and bye-week planning, makes Gawn an attractive starting option in all formats. I’m of the more bullish outlook on Gawn. I’m happy to start with him and, if required, pull the parachute cord at his first bye, but I’m not convinced I’ll even need it.

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In fantasy drafts, the importance of securing a top-tier ruck cannot be overstated, with my rankings placing Tim English as the premier choice in AFLFantasy, thanks to his consistent output and flexibility, followed by the formidable Rowan Marshall. Max Gawn, positioned at #3, can ascend to the #2 spot. In SuperCoach, where his skill set elevates him even more, I have him ranked #2 behind English.


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