Gawn: Who will ‘dominate’ under new rules
Superstar ruckman Max Gawn says the Demons' talented onball group must take advantage of the AFL's new starting position rule this season.
Simon Goodwin's men are the No.1 ranked onball brigade entering this season after losing the contested possession count only twice last year.
Gawn said the new rule was "good for the game" because teams would be prevented from starting extra defenders in the backline, helping boost scoring.
Instead, clubs have to start six forwards, and six defenders inside the 50m arcs after every goal.
Gawn said the new rule favoured the top centre bounce teams, including his own.
"My gut-feel is a strong centre bounce team could dominate," Gawn said.
"It is one of our strengths, but we have got to make sure we do it the right way.
"So, that is up to the coaches to sort out some sort of game plan so we can use our strength as a centre bounce team and hopefully score some goals.
"A team with a bit of momentum in the centre bounce might be hard to beat."
Clubs have moved swiftly over summer to trail the new starting positions, and in particular, have noticed the extra room it gives on-ballers bursting out of the middle.
Hawthorn premiership mastermind Alastair Clarkson said centre bounce goals would certainly increase this year.
"It's just so open at the centre bounce now," he said.
"Centre bounce goals are going to go north."
The new rule could force some centre square tactical tweaks from some of last year's top sides, including Collingwood (ranked 13th for centre clearance wins), Richmond (14th) and Geelong (15th), to try and secure more fast takeaways out of the middle.
The trio relied heavily on other methods, including rebound from defence and controlled ball movement, to hit the scoreboard last year.
Ruckmen will also be encouraged to grab the ball out of the ruck this season under another rule tweak. The big men won't be pinged for holding the ball if they are tackled in possession at any stoppage.
Gawn said leg speed could be an important asset in the engine room if the ruckmen or on-ballers could hit a teammate flying through the centre square.
"I feel like the back of the square might be a bit more open," he said.
"Therefore, getting a player on the run, running forward, might be more of a target if we have got momentum."
Non-finalists Western Bulldogs (ranked fourth for centre clearances) and Carlton (fifth) will try to capitalise on their onball power this year.
Blues' co-captain Patrick Cripps won the equal most centre bounce clearances alongside Richmond superstar Dustin Martin.
Hawthorn Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell, who ranked third, will miss the season with a broken leg, potentially opening up a spot for WAFL ball magnet Luke Meadows.
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