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New rules likely to see two ruckmen back in vogue

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 12: Sam Jacobs, Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins of the Crows clash with Paddy Ryder, Riley Bonner and Jack Hombsch of the Power during the 2018 AFL round eight match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval on May 12, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Media)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 12: Sam Jacobs, Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins of the Crows clash with Paddy Ryder, Riley Bonner and Jack Hombsch of the Power during the 2018 AFL round eight match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval on May 12, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Media)

The first domino from the AFL's suite of new rules is set to fall.

As AFL.com.au suggested in mid-October might happen, many of the 18 clubs are set to experiment with two genuine ruckmen in their side during the JLT Community Series.

The combination of big men now being able to grab the ball out of any ruck contest with the benefit of prior opportunity, plus the new starting positions at centre bounces is proving a game-changer.

There is a fear the undersized Shaun Grigg-types who were so adept in spelling first-choice ruckmen, at least in short bursts, will be exposed under the revamped conditions.

Reigning premier West Coast's success with a two-headed ruck monster, whether it was Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett, or later Lycett and Nathan Vardy, didn't hurt either.

Lycett is preparing to partner Paddy Ryder in Port Adelaide's ruck department in 2019 after defecting from the Eagles.

It is match simulation season, and several teams – evidenced most recently at Waverley Park on Friday – are using a ruckman as the forward who must be in the attacking goalsquare before each bounce.

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The Hawks have flirted with the Ben McEvoy-Jon Ceglar pairing in the past, although they went away from that strategy down the stretch last year.

Fifth-year ruckman Marc Pittonet might even be primed to break up that duopoly, judging by his impressive performance on Friday.

Melbourne, considered one of the competition's most innovative sides, is also figuring out how to find a spot for ex-Kangaroo Braydon Preuss alongside dual All Australian Max Gawn.

The challenge in the aerobic-obsessed modern game is a second big man could mean sacrificing a midfielder, unless coaches are confident that player can capably replace a marking forward.

That's why Fremantle is more likely to turn to Rory Lobb than Sean Darcy as a second ruckman to Aaron Sandilands, and Essendon may prefer Shaun McKernan over Zac Clarke or Sam Draper alongside Tom Bellchambers.

Josh Jenkins (Adelaide), Mason Cox (Collingwood), Peter Wright (Gold Coast), Callum Sinclair (Sydney) and Tom Boyd (Western Bulldogs) can also command a position as a forward who can ruck.

Who could the clubs pair?

Adelaide: Sam Jacobs, Josh Jenkins
Brisbane: Stefan Martin, Oscar McInerney
Carlton: Matthew Kreuzer, Andrew Phillips
Collingwood: Brodie Grundy, Mason Cox
Essendon: Tom Bellchambers, Shaun McKernan
Fremantle: Aaron Sandilands, Rory Lobb
Geelong: Rhys Stanley, Darcy Fort
Gold Coast: Jarrod Witts, Peter Wright
GWS Giants: Shane Mumford, Dawson Simpson
Hawthorn: Ben McEvoy, Jon Ceglar
Melbourne: Max Gawn, Braydon Preuss
North Melbourne: Todd Goldstein, Tom Campbell
Port Adelaide: Paddy Ryder, Scott Lycett
Richmond: Toby Nankervis, Ivan Soldo
St Kilda: Billy Longer, Rowan Marshall
Sydney: Sam Naismith, Callum Sinclair
West Coast: Nathan Vardy, Tom Hickey*
Western Bulldogs: Tim English, Tom Boyd

* While Nic Naitanui (knee) is out