Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning has had no shortage of important ruck battles this year, and after a big duel with Collingwood star Brodie Grundy last week, coach David Teague is backing his young ruckman in against North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein.
De Koning is in his fourth year in the AFL system since arriving at the Blues with pick 30 in the 2017 draft and is emerging as one of the exciting young ruckmen across the competition.
Playing just the nine games in his first three seasons due to a spate of unfortunate injury setbacks, De Koning was set to fight it out with fellow ruckman Marc Pittonet pre-season to see who would assume the number one mantles at the Blues.
However, the injury curse struck the 22-year-old again in the pre-season, sidelining him with a back injury which would see him limit his movements and miss the early parts of the 2021 home and away season.
De Koning broke back into the senior side against Hawthorn and has played every game since, averaging 14.6 hit-outs, two clearances, and has been able to sneak forward and hit the scoreboard, averaging just under a goal a game this season.
In recent weeks, De Koning has been acting as the sole ruckman in the Carlton side with the undersized but wholehearted Jack Silvagni providing the relief ruck chop out.
In a move which has seen him thrive with the responsibility of the number one ruck in the Carlton side.
David Teague was full of praise for the young ruckman’s progression throughout the season.
“Tom’s been really good for us. He’s stood up” he said speaking to the media on Thursday.
“Tom’s had some big challenges. We know as a ruckman most weeks, you get big challenges.
“Last week he had Brodie Grundy, this week he gets Todd Goldstein, it doesn’t get any easier.
“He looks forward to it, He’s been dying to get that opportunity to be our number one ruckman and he’s grabbed it.”
Still only 17 games into his emerging career, Teague is excited about De Koning’s work ethic and want to be the best player he can be and lead Carlton’s ruck division for years to come.
“He’s working really hard on his game, he wants to get better, he understands that he’s still got a lot of growth in him and he’ll keep working hard on that.”
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Carlton look set to be bolstered by the return of their captain Patrick Cripps who missed the game against Collingwood nursing his sore body.
Among the potential inclusions could also be veteran and former skipper Marc Murphy who has missed the past three weeks with a calf injury. Murphy is in a race against time to bring up the landmark 300 game milestone, just four games away with five weeks remaining in the season.
“Patrick seems really good at this stage. He’ll train today and as long as he gets through training today, then he should play,” Teague said.
“Marc will also train today and he’s a test as well. We’ll have a look at how he trains and then we’ll have a look at what his loads have been like over the last couple of weeks. That will probably impact his availability this week.”
Charlie Curnow is set to have another run at the lower level this week as the club carefully and gradually manages his loads as he eyes a return to the senior side in the final month of the season to complete his comeback from a series of knee injuries.
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