More than any other position in football, the path to senior football for a ruckman might be the hardest to achieve. There are about 18 slots for full-time rucks in the league at any one time, stepping aside from the dual ruck issue.
At the same time, most teams carry four or five rucks on their list at any one time. Those who can’t play a second position well enough to force selection, or supplant the player in front of them in the queue, are destined to play reserves footy for a while.
Braydon Preuss, with stints at North and Melbourne behind him, has had to try to gain selection over two ex-All Australian rucks. Both sides flirted with playing Preuss with Goldstein or Gawn, but their respective styles of play did not lend themselves to a dual ruck solution.
At age 25, Preuss is looking for his first real opportunity to play AFL football. The selection of Luke Jackson at pick three in last year’s draft has accelerated Preuss’s departure from the Dees,
In a very limited sample size, Braydon Preuss has shown himself to be a potentially great ruck – similar to how Jarrod Witts’ projected when leaving Collingwood.
Across his short career, Pruess sits at the top of all AFL rucks for hitout win rate, and fifth for hitout to advantage rate. He also sits seventh for contested marks per game, and tends to accumulate a decent amount of metres per game without turning the ball much.
The downside to his game at this stage is that he has shown little ability to get the ball below his knees. He doesn’t rate in the area of ground ball gets, and doesn’t really get clearances from his ruck contests yet.
This is really to be expected for a ruck that stands 206cm tall – he isn’t the mobile type of player, more an immovable beast.
This profile also hits why he couldn’t mesh with Gawn or Goldstein in a support ruck role – Gawn particularly profiles very similarly to Preuss, perhaps with more ability around the ground.
GWS have largely struggled to have a solid ruck division in recent years, opting for a bunch of cheap, bridging retreads from other clubs while their young rucks continued to develop. Matt Flynn and Kieren Briggs haven’t been able to manage a game of AFL football yet, and may still be a year or two away.
Preuss is likely an upgrade on the Jacobs part of their ruck platoon last year, and should push Shane Mumford into spot selection duty – which was the intention last year.
Preuss projects poorly in PAPLEY due to his track record of not getting games. However, a look at the HPN Salary Prediction Tool, which can measure the upside scenarios based on limited periods of good output, he should at least be considered to be in the class Mumford and Jacobs occupied when they were slightly younger. That’s certainly how recruiters would be thinking.
For Melbourne, this trade exposes them in terms of depth, with only Gawn and Jackson on their list as recognized rucks, and Jackson still being extremely raw. Assuming Ben Brown is recruited, the Dees may have to draw on him as a backup ruck option.
Historically, they may have also been in the market for an extra discard or state league backup via the rookie list, but that’s potentially not so urgent with the AFL floating multiple in-season supplemental signing periods next year. Clubs who find a ruck shortage during next year will likely have multiple chances to grab one, and can potentially leave fringe prospects on their reserves-only squads unless needed.
Pick 31 adds to Melbourne’s current brace of second and third round draft picks this year, which as noted in analysis of their pick swaps, may leave them, after trading some, still retaining multiple stabs at a draft particularly likely to yield bargains.
For GWS, pick 31 is a big investment in pulling a non-playing backup from another club. However, Preuss was contracted which can up the asking price. More significantly, he will almost certainly play every game he’s fit, meaning that even as a league average sort of ruck, he’ll overperform his projection in a year or two.
Verdict: Notionally unfair trade, illustrating the upside projection of Preuss’ worth.
Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.
Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAV. Expressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.