Brad Scott considers two rucks against Melbourne

Essendon can’t simply assume that Max Gawn’s absence will turn the crucial ruck battle in their favor against Melbourne, says coach Brad Scott, as he contemplates whether to field two rucks.

The Demons expect Gawn to miss two or three matches due to a chipped fibula, ahead of games against the Bombers, Fremantle, and GWS – all current top-eight sides.

This situation offers Essendon ruckman Sam Draper, whom Scott noted is returning to peak form, a prime opportunity to make an impact in Saturday night’s clash at the MCG.

Scott didn’t confirm a recall for veteran Todd Goldstein, who was managed against Collingwood, to support Draper. He acknowledged that this decision might have been more likely if Gawn were playing.

“Whether it’s (Tom) Fullarton or another player in the ruck for Melbourne, they’ll be capable,” Scott said.

“So, I think we’d be taking some liberties if we thought we’d automatically exploit Melbourne’s perceived weakness there.

“It’s only perceived and it’s only a weakness if we take advantage of it.

“Playing two rucks doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a potential opportunity.

“I’m just very aware that assuming you can dominate a part of the game because a key opposition player is out is a huge mistake in elite sport.”

Demons coach Simon Goodwin has former Brisbane Lions ruck-forward Fullarton and potential debutant Will Verrall in consideration. Jacob van Rooyen is another option, having taken over when Gawn was injured against West Coast, while fellow tall forwards Ben Brown (knee) and Harrison Petty (hamstring) are pushing to return from injuries.

“He’s a tough man to replace,” Goodwin said of Gawn on Wednesday.

“But, like any challenge we’ve faced recently, whether it be Angus Brayshaw’s retirement or Christian Petracca’s injury, we always look at opportunities.

“For us, with Max out, it gives us a chance to explore different personnel and methods in that role.”

Goodwin was particularly cautious about “a really strong ruckman” in Draper.

“We’ll make decisions on how to approach the ruck battle and general play to gain advantages in certain areas,” he said.

Gawn, seen in a moon boot and on a scooter at the Demons’ Casey Fields headquarters on Wednesday, aims for a speedy recovery to face Fremantle on July 21.

“It’s ambitious,” Goodwin said.

“We expect it to be more like two or three weeks, but Max is Max.

“He is the ultimate professional, always focused on how to do his rehab best and get back quickly and in top shape.

“That mindset gives him a great chance to achieve that.”

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