Dockers have the best rucks in the AFL: Longmuir
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir reckons he has the best ruck combination in the AFL, but it will be put to the test against star Melbourne duo Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy in Saturday's showdown at the MCG.
Dockers ruckman Sean Darcy is averaging a competition-high 42.1 hitouts this season, while Luke Jackson (10.2 hitouts per game) has been a handy ally splitting his time between ruck, midfield and forward-line duties.
Grundy (22.9 hitouts) and Gawn (17.9) have combined well in their first season together, with their efforts helping lift Melbourne (7-3) into fourth spot on the ladder.
The star Demons duo have a combined eight All-Australian jerseys, compared to zero for Darcy and Jackson.
But with Fremantle sitting No.1 in both hitouts (52 per game) and hitouts to advantage (15 per game) this season, Longmuir says he has the best ruck duo going around.
"We think we do," Longmuir told SEN.
"It's going to be a great challenge this week, and Grundy and Gawn have a bit of experience on our guys.
"But I feel like Jacko and Sean Darcy in particular have been really good at giving our mids first look.
"In the last couple of weeks we've been able to translate that into not only stoppage wins, but also stoppage scores.
"That's given us a bit of bang for buck around that area of the ground.
"It's a great challenge for our young rucks this week against two really mature rucks who are playing at the top of their game."
Jackson will be facing Melbourne for the first time since making his high-profile switch from the Demons to Fremantle at the end of last year.
The 21-year-old premiership star endured a slow start to his time at the Dockers, but his return to form has coincided with Fremantle's three-match winning run.
Longmuir expects Melbourne to target Jackson.
"Whether it's verbal, a bit of tongue and cheek stuff, or whether it's physical, we expect them to do something towards Luke," Longmuir said.
"It's important he doesn't get distracted by it ... and not get caught up in that because he's in really good form.
"It's not as though he doesn't like a bit of physicality in his game anyway, so he'll be able to embrace that and still execute his role."
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin says Jackson will be treated like the enemy.
"We're rapt to see how well he's going at Fremantle," Goodwin said.
"He gave our footy club a lot, he's certainly a premiership player and someone that we respect highly.
"But now he's crossed the border and gone to a different club, he's now the enemy."
Melbourne will be without star midfielder Clayton Oliver (hamstring) and winger Lachie Hunter (suspension), while Fremantle lost forward Michael Walters to a calf injury.