K rock Football

Gawn out to change perceptions

Melbourne ruck Max Gawn is battling a hamstring injury. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

MAX Gawn is lauded as a premiership captain, a superstar ruckman and one of the AFL’s most popular characters, but he’s on a mission to change perceptions in 2023 – specifically when it comes to his work inside the forward 50.

“I want to be seen as someone that is a tall forward down there, rather than a ruckman resting forward,” the Melbourne captain told AAP.

“To be able to get that perception … (I’ll be) making sure that Ben Brown, Tom McDonald and Bailey Fritsch don’t have to do extra because I’m down there.”

As young star Luke Jackson took a greater share of Melbourne’s ruck load in recent years, Gawn drifted forward more regularly, kicking a total of 33 goals in the past two seasons compared to eight goals across the previous two.

With Jackson now at Fremantle, and former Collingwood star Brodie Grundy tipped to take even more of Gawn’s ruck time, the Demons skipper is determined to increase his impact as a forward threat.

At 209cm, Gawn will be a nightmare in the air for key defenders, but he wants to provide more than just a strong marking presence.

“I want to make sure I’m running the right patterns, I’m resetting when (the other forwards are) resetting, I’m involved in bringing the ball to ground, and I’m also involved in following up.”

Finishing off his work in front of goal is also a major focus, with the six-time All-Australian admitting new goalkicking coach Mark Williams has encouraged a new approach.

“I call it a respectful conversation between two people,” Gawn joked.

“I’ve got my way of kicking, and he’s got his way, and I think they’re polar opposites, so we’re trying to find some common ground in the middle, and that’ll be a great recipe.”

In a sense, the prospect of spending more time in the goal square than the centre square has been a long time coming.

“When I got drafted, I thought I was a forward/ruck. But I ended up just being a ruckman for 14 years.

“Kurt Tippett was someone that I looked up to – the way he marked the ball and followed up.”

As far as current forwards go, Gawn is drawing inspiration from Bulldog Rory Lobb (206cm) and Richmond’s Tom Lynch (199cm).

The early results for 2023 have been promising, with Gawn and Grundy kicking three goals each in the first half of their practice match against Richmond.

“Are we going to kick three every week? I hope so.”

Reluctant to put a number on a targeted goal tally for the season ahead, Gawn is hopeful spending more time forward will prolong his career.

Asked how many more seasons he has in him, the 31-year-old joked, “Technically, I’ve got three. But with Grundy … eight?”

(C) AAP 2023