When St Kilda plays Paddy Ryder alongside Rowan Marshall it robs the young Saint of his mojo. Marshall should be given the freedom to shoulder the load on his own, and it’s why Ryder’s days are numbered, writes Nick Riewoldt.
Paddy Ryder’s days in the St Kilda line-up might be numbered.
Seemingly unhappy at sharing the ruck duties at Port Adelaide, he left the Power
for greater opportunity.
Essendon was keen to lure him home, and they would have loved to have him running out against the Magpies last night.
But he chose the Saints.
It seemed a strange decision in the off-season given the emergence of the man nicknamed The Prospect in 2019, Rowan Marshall.
When Ryder arrived at Moorabbin, most football pundits had one concern: Would his arrival stall the development of the Saints rising star?
Most AFL players, particularly the ultra competitive ones, want to be “The Man”.
Whether that’s being the forward focal point, the “hit-to” mid or the No.1 ruckman, they thrive on the responsibility that comes with shouldering more than their share of the load.
Max Gawn does it.
Brodie Grundy does it.
Rowan Marshall can do it.
Average performances in rounds 1-3, albeit a small sample size, seemed to confirm what many had feared.
That sharing the ruck duties with Ryder had robbed Marshall of his mojo.
Neither of them was able to have any impact as a forward (although Marshall can hold his own in that position) and Marshall looked out of rhythm when he eventually took his turn in the ruck.
His numbers suffered across the board which is to be expected given reduced playing time, but the sum of their parts didn’t get close to the impact Marshall had when riding solo last year.
Marshall’s disposal average dropped from 18 to 12. His clearances from 5.5 to 1.
It appeared as though he deferred to Ryder, his senior, and a player who is greatly respected across the competition.
That can be a natural reaction for a young player.
Time will tell, but Marshall seems to be the type that needs, and will continue to thrive, the greater the responsibility.
Ryder is an elite tap ruckman and has been a star for a long time, but at this stage of his career doesn’t provide enough around the ground or as a forward to warrant deploying two big men.
In contrast, Marshall can do everything.
He’s not as adept at tap work as Ryder, but jumped all over Marc Pittonet at centre bounces on Thursday night, then followed up at ground level winning a game-high seven clearances.
He marks it cleanly overhead. He is a beautiful, thumping kick and covers the ground like a midfielder.
In two games since assuming the solo ruck mantle his AFL player rating points have doubled, score involvements doubled and he leads the team in contested possessions and clearances.
It has proven to be a winning formula.
The other obvious advantage in rolling with one ruckman, as Richmond and Shaun Grigg proved, is the balance of options it provides your team.
In addition to Marshall’s dominance, what isn’t helping Paddy’s case, is by selecting one of Josh Battle or Jonathon Marsh in preference to Ryder, Brett Ratten has at his disposal power athletes who can play a variety of roles.
Battle was a solid performer at halfback in 19 games last season and so far this year has played in all parts of the ground.
The big surprise has been Marsh.
Only the bravest analyst would have predicted during the pre-season that the ex-Magpie would be keeping Ryder out of a spot.
He is a bruiser Marsh.
Happy to sacrifice himself at the contest, if he doesn’t mark it, it’s coming to ground.
Then “The Mozz Squad” gets to work.
Dan Butler, Jade Gresham, Jack Billings, and Brad Hill et al take over once the ball is on the deck.
Marsh is explosive at ground level himself and takes some of the heat off young key forward Max King.
Quite simply, the Saints look faster, and more dangerous with him, as opposed to a resting ruckman, in the front half.
The Saints have been crying out of for a young ruck star since Peter Everitt burst onto the scene.
They found mature warriors in Steven King and Michael Gardiner a decade ago, and then found their man in Ben McEvoy before bizarrely trading him just as he was ready to explode.
Ryder was a star at Essendon and Port, and could be for another club.
But Marshall is the Saints man now.
They just need to give him the stage, and watch him shine.