Brett Ratten has offered insight into how St Kilda’s two-pronged ruck offensive of Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder will work in 2020.
The prospective combination has been a major talking point throughout the Saints’ off-season, with intrigue surrounding who will handle ruck duties, who will spend time up forward and even if the partnership might hamper Marshall’s development.
But Ratten is content there will be no obstruction of any kind, with the versatility, skill and combination of the duo valuable to the red, white and black’s 2020 campaign.
Ratten turned his gaze west to give hard evidence of the dual-ruck role bringing the ultimate success.
“You look at Nic Naitanui and the combinations with Scott Lycett through their Premiership year – and if it wasn’t Naitanui, it was Nathan Vardy,” Ratten told SEN.
“The two ruckmen play a huge part and they influence games of football and give your midfield first access to the ball.
After just his third season of senior footy, Marshall burst onto the scene to put together one of the most impressive individual displays of 2019.
The Portland product averaged 29 hit-outs, 18 disposals and six clearances per game, topping the Saints’ contested possessions, hit-outs and centre clearances count to place second at the 2019 Trevor Barker Award.
Marshall was originally selected by the Saints as a rookie in 2016.
Now, the recruitment of Ryder in last year’s trade period is only set to improve the 24-year-old’s standing in the competition.
Ryder has played 243 games and kicked 171 goals across his illustrious career, complete with All Australian and best-and-fairest honours in 2017.
The 31-year-old joined the Saints in last year’s blockbuster trade period, which also brought in Dougal Howard, Bradley Hill, Zak Jones, Dan Butler and ruckman Ryan Abbott.
While there’s been concern about Marshall losing valuable time in the ruck following Ryder’s arrival, Ratten is content the partnership will be beneficial to both players.
“Whether Ryder starts in the ruck or Rowan starts in the ruck it doesn’t matter to us,” Ratten said.
Ratten also believes the potential dual-ruck option will give the Saints a critical edge at the stoppages.
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“If we think history says Paddy’s got an advantage over another ruckman and he’s got a great record, we’ll start him as first ruck,” Ratten said.
“But if Rowan’s got a good record against another ruckman, we’ll flip it around the other way, which gives us good flexibility.”
Ryder’s inclusion to St Kilda’s line-up has been warmly received among the playing group, with his experience and knowledge rubbing off on the entire team.
Tim Membrey was quick to praise the All Australian ruckman, whose arrival at RSEA Park hasn’t just benefitted Marshall.
“With Paddy being so experienced and a great ruckman for a long time, him working closely with Ro so far has been really good for not only Rowan’s growth, but the whole team,” Membrey told SEN.
"But I guess that’s one for the coaches to work out.”
The Saints will have an opportunity to trial the new ruck combination when they face Hawthorn on Thursday February 20 at RSEA Park for the first game of the Marsh Community Series.