Rucks get set for titanic GF duel

AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan and the tall timber on both grand final teams agree; the ruck battle will be pivotal in determining the destination of the premiership cup.

McLachlan chose not to tip the winner of the grand final, instead predicting the match will be decided in his own specialist position; the ruck.

And it’s here the match-ups look as intriguing as the overall contest.

The Eagles have dynamite tall Nic Naitanui, ably assisted by Callum Sinclair, while Hawthorn will field steady-as-you-go pair David Hale and Ben McEvoy.

At Friday’s grand final parade, Naitanui said he was delighted to be involved and even more excited to be playing off on Saturday.

“Most matches are won or lost in the middle so it’s a big task for myself and Callum Sinclair,” he said.

“But I can’t wait for the challenge.”

Hawk ruckman David Hale conceded he and McEvoy would need to find a way around the giant Eagle of Fijian heritage.

“Nic Nat is such a dominant force, he gives their mids first use,” he said.

“He’s got all the athletic ability, you try and use your footy smarts and your footy nous, try and use your strength in other areas and nullify the impact he can have.

“Hopefully both of us can try and get forward and get a couple of goals and hurt him in other areas.”

Hale is strongly tipped to retire after the match, and hinted he’d already decided the grand final would be his 237th and last AFL match, saying winning or losing wouldn’t make a difference to his decision whether or not to play on.

“Getting through another pre-season is the thing,” he said.

“I’ll just get through tomorrow and then sit down with the club and family and see what’s best.”

Hale and McEvoy got the nod ahead of fellow Hawk tall Jonathan Ceglar, with Hale saying the unlucky Ceglar’s time would come.

“He’s got seven or eight years left to play and can experience this all again.”

Ahead of the 2015 decider, McLachlan said he believed the battle of the rucks would decide the match.

“If Naitanui is going to be as dominant as he can be, and all those West Coast midfielders get the ball and get out of the middle, I reckon West Coast will win,” he told ABC local radio.

“If Hale and McEvoy can break even with him … I think Hawthorn will win.

“That’s my view, the ruck will decide it … two blokes are going to decide a premiership, no pressure.”

McLachlan himself played as a ruckman over a decade for Melbourne amateur side University Blues.

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