24/04/2024

Max Gawn is a prime captaincy option. Photo: Melbourne Demons FC

The emergence of 19-year-old Luke Jackson as an integral component of the 11-1 Demons has been a surprise to many, but not four-time All-Australian Max Gawn.

The emergence of 19-year-old Luke Jackson as an integral component of the 11-1 Demons has been a surprise to many, but not four-time All-Australian Max Gawn.

Under his tutelage, Jackson’s performances at AFL-level have impressed since his debut season in 2020.

Speaking to the media ahead of ‘Freeze at the (SC)G’ against Collingwood, Gawn was full of praise for the burgeoning ruckman.

“Luke has slotted really well into our team,” Gawn said on Tuesday.

“I don’t know many 19-year-old rucks who have had as much of an impact as him – probably Brodie Grundy actually came onto the scene pretty quickly as an 18, 19-year-old.”

It’s a quick rise through the ranks for Jackson, who is now holding out quality key forwards including Ben Brown due to the versatility that he brings to the side.

In a juxtaposition to Gawn’s progression, who suffered multiple ACL tears in his right knee, Jackson is playing football at a level that sees him as one of the Demons’ most important players already. Not many expected to hear that about the 200 centimeter 19-year-old in 2021.

“I couldn’t imagine myself playing that sort of football when I was his age”, the Demons skipper admitted.

“He’s got a long way to go in terms of some of his development but you can see what he brings. He brings that athleticism, his follow-up, and being able to get the ball going forward for us.

“To his own admission, he probably wants to clunk a few more up forward and kick a few more goals, but he’s bringing the ball to ground for Kozzy Pickett to be able to do his job as well.

“He’ll get better at his ruck craft, better at his marking. I think that’ll come with a few more games, bit of training with me and Greg Stafford (Melbourne’s forwards coach), and hopefully a bit of age as well.”

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Gawn, who is once again in All-Australian form, was looking forward to his battle with Brodie Grundy. That may be put on hold this season, with Grundy still recovering from a neck injury and unlikely to face the Demons on Monday.

He doesn’t expect their ruck partnership to change if Grundy does miss the round 13 clash, despite the relative inexperience of Max Lynch and Darcy Cameron potentially allowing Gawn to spend more time forward.

“Jacko and I have got a pretty good relationship in how we switch,” Gawn said.

“It’s not really written down; it’s sort of a feel on the game at different times and to be honest, Luke would probably be a really good match-up at times on Brodie, as would I at times so you’ve sort of got to get a read on the game.

“Sometimes I’m cooked and need him in there, sometimes he’s cooked and needs me in there. It changes and I think that’s what teams that have that double ruck options do, have a bit more flexibility rather than a strict sort of time in when you need people on and people off.

“It’s much easier having him in the team, I do like having him in there; that one week we didn’t have him in there I certainly noticed it.”

Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy compete in 2018. Photo: Melbourne Demons FC

Gawn and Grundy have had some of the great modern day ruck match-ups in past years. In their single contest last year, they split the hit-outs 33-35, had 18 and 19 disposals respectively, and both kicked a goal for their side.

The Dees captain says their future contests may be a bit different with young ruckmen progressing under their tutelage.

“I love playing Brodie. We’ve had some great match-ups and I love playing the best and he’s certainly up there as one of the best. Him along with Nic Nat who I’ve got in a few weeks as well,” Max Gawn smiled.

“I love to play [Grundy], we have a good little chat out there every game and I think we’re six or seven games into our battle and I’m sure there are going to be a few more to come.

“Now we’ve got little apprentices as well with Darcy Cameron and Luke Jackson both playing a fair bit of ruck time so it’s a little bit different to our old battles early on.

“I don’t know where he’s at but I hope he does play.”

Melbourne and Collingwood will be playing their annual Big Freeze game on Queen’s Birthday Monday for the FightMND campaign. You can donate to the cause and purchase a Big Freeze 7 beanie here.

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