How do you follow up a breakout season in which you became the No.1 ruckman in the AFL?
Melbourne Demon’s Kiwi star Max Gawn doesn’t know the answer to that question, but says he will be doing everything in his power to find out.
“It’s almost like trying to stop the second-year blues, in a way. I had my time last year and now I’ve got to back it up,” Gawn told AFL.com.au.
The Melbourne big man was selected in his first All Australian team after leading the League for hit-outs in 2016. Gawn also came third in the club’s best and fairest award, easily the highest placing of his seven-year career.
Gawn’s spike in development came after setting himself up for a big pre-season. The big man, who turns 25 in December, plans to follow a similar fitness program leading into 2017.
“I worked as hard as I could in the off-season and the pre-season last year and it was able to work out for me on the MCG this year, so I’ve got to be able to do that again,” Gawn said.
The Demons again made steady progress in 2016 and put themselves in a position to contend for finals, ultimately falling short of September action in 11th place on the ladder after a disappointing final fortnight of the season.
The addition of boom recruits Jordan Lewis and Michael Hibberd, plus the inclusion of Jake Melksham – who served an effective 12-month doping suspension in 2016 – has Gawn buoyed for what awaits his team in 2017.
“I want to take our midfield even higher. We’ve got Jordan Lewis in there now, which is exciting and hopefully we can take those steps up the ladder,” Gawn said.
After establishing himself as the game’s top ruckman, Gawn understands there will be a target on his back, much in the same way North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein – the 2015 All Australian big man – was attacked and provoked by opposition sides.
“You saw what happened with ‘Goldy’ this year. Everyone was working on how to beat him and they ended up hurting him a couple of times,” Gawn said.
“I like the battle and there’s a lot of good young ruckmen coming through now. (Collingwood’s) Brodie Grundy and (St Kilda’s) Tom Hickey are two guys who will challenge me and they’ll be there for the next 10 years as well.”
Gawn, who was on hand for the launch of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington Racecourse on Monday, believes his side can challenge for the top eight in 2017.
“We beat teams that played finals this year and we got close to the Western Bulldogs, who ended up winning the flag,” Gawn said.
“We can beat the teams who are good enough to play finals; we’ve just got to get there.”
Story – AFL.com.au