A giant advantage
Every so often a footballer defies the natural laws of physical capabilities with unique individual talents.
Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands is 211cm tall and weighs 122kg. He is one gigantic human being.
This level of height and bulk would be helpful when the ball is overhead, but should be a supreme disadvantage when the ball is on the ground.
Touching your toes is difficult enough, let alone taking control of an odd-bouncing oval footy bobbling around at your feet.
Sandilands returned from injury against Carlton last Friday and gained an amazing 18 ground-level possessions, including 13 clearances.
These would be decent numbers for an elite midfielder, let alone the biggest player in the competition.
Getting this amount of ground-level footy for a player of Sandilands’ size is quite remarkable, and a testament to his incredible agility and flexibility.
There are good players, and then there are attacking weapons. The Freo ruckman is indispensable to his team’s finals prospects and most definitely one of the game’s most potent attacking weapons.
Carlton’s Robert Warnock had the 206cm height to match Sandilands’ reach, but nowhere near the bulk, and while competitive could not get his hand to the footy in the ruck duels.
When Sandilands is in the ruck, he’ll get first touch of the footy, so every ground-level player must watch his hand to read the knock.
When he gets clear access to the footy and he can thump the ball into the path of a Stephen Hill, Freo’s best ball carrier, the clearance win is extremely penetrating.
Before Michael Barlow was injured mid-season, Fremantle was flying, partly because Barlow got onto the end of Sandilands’ ruck dominance and turned it into clearances.
It appeared that against the Blues, Sandilands put into practice the old cliché of the ruckman getting the hit-out, telling his midfielders to get out of the way and then roving it himself.
Dominating the hit-outs and following up to win 13 clearances was a magnificent effort.