It’s hard to imagine 2019 without Rowan Marshall.
‘The Prospect’ was everything throughout St Kilda’s season, dominating almost every facet to become one of the club’s most idolised players.
Armed with unbelievable mobility, a superb mark and an incredible ability to win the ball at the contest, Marshall’s supreme athleticism established himself as St Kilda’s premier ruckman.
And his rapid rise up the ranks has the No. 19 firmly in the hunt for the Trevor Barker Award after just three years at senior level.
Should the Portland product take out the club’s most prestigious honour, he’ll be the first ruckman to win the award since Peter ‘Spida’ Everitt in 2001.
The elevation off the rookie list at the end of 2018 translated perfectly into an incredible elevation in his importance to the Saints.
Marshall was frequently one of St Kilda’s best players in each of his 20 games for the year.
Leading the Saints for centre clearances (40), contested possessions (227) and hitouts (569) at season’s end offer only a snapshot into his stellar campaign, with his influence on the contest and inspiring efforts for his side often the catalyst for St Kilda’s surges.
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The 23-year-old averaged 18 disposals (11 contested), six clearances, four marks and three inside-50s per game to rank as elite in all statistics.
In 10 of his matches, Marshall notched up 30 or more hitouts, inclusive of two 40+ performances against Fremantle and Gold Coast.
They charted among his best for the season, while terrific displays against GWS (22 disposals, nine clearances, two goals), Richmond (19 disposals, 33 hitouts) and Adelaide (20 disposals, 32 hitouts, six clearances) stood out from the pack of his indomitable outings.
But his match-winning masterclass against Hawthorn was the most memorble, with the bloodied and bandaged Saint amassing 17 disposals, 27 hitouts, seven clearances and a goal to steer the red, white and black to a superb triumph.
'The Ruckman who shall not be named' starred against the Hawks in Round 4.
He's often had to battle against much more experienced and bigger-bodied ruckmen this season, with Marshall behind only Adelaide's Reilly O'Brien and the Western Bulldogs' Tim English in number of games played.
Intensive work with ruck coach Adam Skrobalak in the pre-season transformed the tall forward option into an elite and agile ruckman, whose presence was felt in every outing.
Combining his height, athleticism and superb tap-work allowed the North Ballarat recruit to begin his evolution into the same calibre of ruckman as dual All-Australian, Brodie Grundy.
Like the Magpies superstar, Marshall made his opponents work overtime and was incredible in his follow-up work, boasting the best contested possession rate (61.4%) for the Saints to show for it.
The battle between the two was gripping in Round 9, with the two neck-and-neck before the Grundy wrestled back the upper hand through his experience and talent.
And it just shows that Marshall has got plenty more room to grow.
Marshall and Grundy go head-to-head at the MCG.
Given the year he’s had, it’s astonishing to think that there wasn't enough room for the much-admired Saint come Round 1.
At the midpoint of the season, Marshall was the highest-ranked player in the league according the Official Player Rankings.
It’s amazing considering the journey he’s had, with the mature-ager battling his way to the big leagues through the rookie draft, being taken by the Saints with pick No. 10.
He’s a self-admitted “late bloomer” from a footballing sense.
But boy, was it worth the wait.