The Suns are hoping their low-profile trade last October of former Collingwood giant Jarrod Witts will this season lead them into a first finals appearance.
The exchange turned very few heads considering Witts has played 40 games in four seasons with the Magpies. But his standout preparation in new colours is shaping as the beginning of something big, according to the Suns.Gold Coast general manager of football operations Marcus Ashcroft yesterday told The Australian Witts had elevated himself to the No 1 ruck spot following an outstanding pre-season.
â€śHeâ€™s a massive man â€” six foot nine in the old â€” and heâ€™s an elite runner,â€ť Ashcroft said. â€śHe can run two kilometres as well as any of our midfielders and we think the new ruck rule will help him.
â€śHeâ€™ll play for us on Sunday against Brisbane and at the moment, heâ€™s the front runner to be our first-choice ruckman once the season proper starts.â€ť
Ashcroft said the former Sydney University player had thrived since leaving the Pies.
â€śHe loves it living here, heâ€™s driven to do well, and heâ€™s done a mountain of work,â€ť Ashcroft said.
Witts, 24, was swapped to the Suns for third and fourth-round national draft choices after just two games last year. Gold Coastâ€™s timing could not have been better as their only other two recognised ruckmen are on the comeback from injuries and will not be available to start the pre-season competition, the JLT Community series.Tom Nicholls is on the way back from calf and hip flexor issues and is not expected to be available until next month
, while back-up big man Daniel Currie, who played four senior games in 2016, is being managed for knee tendinitis.
Nicholls has been the clubâ€™s main tap ruckman in recent seasons but heâ€™s managed just 15 games over each of the past two seasons, forcing the Suns to pinch hit with several options including rookie Keegan Brooksby, Peter Wright, Sam Day and Tom Lynch.
One of Gold Coastâ€™s most vulnerable areas since joining the competition in 2011 has been in the ruck, where their hit-out statistics make for difficult reading.
Last year Melbourneâ€™s Max Gawn led the competition with 928 tap outs in 22 games, followed by North Melbourneâ€™s Todd Goldstein with 804 in 22 games, and Giants ruckman Shane Mumford, who accumulated 799 in 23 games.
Nicholls had 337 taps, and was 18th in that statistical bracket. In fact no Gold Coast big man has finished higher than Zac Smithâ€™s finish of 17th with 327 from 20 games in the clubâ€™s inaugural season. Smith played his first season with Geelong last year.
â€śOur ruck division has been inconsistent and it hasnâ€™t been helped by injuries,â€ť Ashcroft said. â€śIt certainly makes it difficult to get by without key ruckmen and hopefully weâ€™re on top of that now.â€ť
stole this from Bigfooty, certainly one to consider. with Witts R2 it helps strengthen my backline
I guess the second bolded bit is the worry though