When Carlton’s ruck stocks were wearing thin after Marc Pittonet was sidelined with a PCL injury, plenty of responsibility was thrust on the shoulders of Tom De Koning.
Since arriving at Carlton with Pick 30 in the 2017 national draft, the spotlight was well and truly back on the one they simply call ‘The King’ at Princes Park, who was again required to step and fill the role as the only other recognized senior listed ruckman on the Blues list.
Having played every game this season, starting as the third tall forward and secondary ruck in the early rounds, De Koning’s move into the middle full time has coincided with two matchups against much more seasoned opponents in North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein and Adelaide star Reilly O’Brien.
The 22-year-old has twice before had to step up the number one mantle in-game this season and while he battled manfully, was overwhelmed and beaten by the dominant ruckmen Jarrod Witts and Sean Darcy.
But much like last season when Pittonet was ruled out for the year and De Koning stepped up for the final eight rounds for the season with the undersized but wholehearted Jack Silvagni as his relief ruckmen, the 29 gamer De Koning is owning the challenge again in 2022.
Speaking after Carlton’s 48-point win over Adelaide, in a game where all Carlton’s tall players played their roles, senior coach Michael Voss said that the extra responsibility of being the number one ruckman is enabling him to thrive.
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“Tom De Koning was brilliant. The opposition he was against is very impressive, he’s a very good ruckman, and Tom well and truly did a great job.” Voss said.
“Responsibility can do that sometimes. He’s certainly taken that on his shoulders and he is thriving.
“He’s really owning it which is fantastic to see. He’s thriving with the opportunity”Embed from Getty Images
De Koning finished with only the 17 hitouts and 11 disposals but continued to leap high and provide a contest in the centre of the ground, allowing the Carlton midfielders to assert their midfield and clearance dominance on the Crows.
“He’s got some great mentors, Pitto (Marc Pittonet) is working really closely with him, as is Kreuz (Matthew Kreuzer).” Voss continued.
“His past couple of weeks have been just been great to see. His want to compete, to get up the ground. He’s still learning his craft which is pretty exciting for all of us”
With looming battles against Braydon Preuss, Tom Hickey, Darcy Cameron, and Sam Draper on the horizon for De Koning, Carlton may still look to add a ruckman in the upcoming mid-season draft to bolster their stocks and add that ruck depth to thier list with the mid-season selection from last year Alex Mirkov still building and developing his game and craft in the VFL.
But the continued rise of the King is leaving many at Princes Park impressed.
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