Stef won’t give up spot without a fight
FIRED-UP Stef Martin believes his body of work for the Lions will hold sway at selection this week and says there are many ways to skin a cat as a ruckman.
Martin's position has been the intriguing storyline of the pre-season as the new rules place a premium on clean and fast clearances from centre-bounces.
With the 32-year-old a late starter to the competitive work over summer because of an ankle injury, spring-heeled challenger Archie Smith made a serious claim with a couple of solid performances throughout the pre-season matches.
Lions coach Chris Fagan made it clear the JLT Community Series was to be a rehearsal for the Round 1 match and his often stated promise of rewarding form would also indicate Smith is a legitimate chance of taking on West Coast at the Gabba on Saturday.
Martin, who has finished third, fourth, third and equal first in the past four Merrett-Murray medals, returned to play against Melbourne in the final JLT Community Series match and is confident he has earnt his position.
"I don't feel as precarious as what you guys might think,'' Martin said.
"I missed a big chunk of the practice games but I'm confident in what I have done over the last few years and I feel I am a decent player.
"You guys have ran with a narrative, but I feel good, I missed some training but I feel pretty fit and ready to go.''
Smith, a former basketballer, has an impressive vertical leap and it is his ability at centre square restarts that has caught the eye.
He sparked the debate when he declared last month: "I see myself coming after that Stef role, I am keen to be the No.1 ruckman.''
Martin, a proven ball winner around the ground and a tough opponent in ruck contests outside the centre-bounce where players are not separated, insists the measurement of a ruckman is the "net results".
"You could argue that you want a fantastic tap ruckman in the centre but you could also argue that you want a ruck that can get clearances themselves,'' he said.
"There is probably many ways to skin a cat and I guess the whole thing is 'Does your unit do well at clearing the ball and getting good quality inside fifties?'."
Throughout his career the official AFL season guide has listed Martin at 197cm, 198cm and now 199cm, which means he gives away height to the real monsters of the league such as Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands (211cm), Collingwood's Mason Cox (211cm), GWS' Dawson Simpson (210cm), Gold Coast's Jarrod Witts (209cm) and Melbourne's Max Gawn (208cm).
But Smith is 201cm and Collingwood's All Australian Brodie Grundy is 203cm.
"It is true that I am not the tallest ruckman and, centre- bounce-wise, there are opponents that are better than me,'' Martin said.
"But I feel like I am OK at it and also around the ground, and at other stoppages I feel I am quite good at them.''
Martin, Smith and Oscar McInerny are all very different which makes the selection dilemma an interesting one.