Kiwi MAX Gawn has capped off an impressive season with selection in the 2016 AFL All-Australian team.
The 24-year-old was named as ruckman among the league’s best 22 for the year.
Gawn, who played 22 games for the season and led the competition in hit outs, averaging 42.2 per game, said the title was “a great honour.”
“You don’t go into the start of the year asking for individual accolades but you take them when you can get them,” he said.
“I know a lot of ruckmen fell over this year but it’s good to get the jacket.”
After an injury-plagued start to his career, it was a remarkable year for Gawn, who up until 2016 had not completed a full pre-season.
“This year with pre-season, I wanted to attack that as hard as I could because I’d never done one so I was very excited to try and get this one under my belt,” he said.
“I actually did every session which was very surprising, especially for someone with my injury history.
“Then when it came to the NAB Challenge, I had a good bit of football and fitness behind me and I was able to get some good form going into the season.”
Gawn said an important turning point in his season came in round three when he was matched up on North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein in Hobart.
“The Goldstein game in round three was a very interesting game for me. I went into that game wanting to compete the best I could against Goldstein because he’s the best ruckman in the competition.
“He kicked three goals in the first quarter and we were down by 30-odd points so it was a bit of an issue at quarter-time.
“The old Max might have just given up at that point and North Melbourne and Goldstein could have run away with the victory but I was able to fight my way back into the contest.
“We came back strongly in the second half of the game and only lost by five points in the end so I gained a bit of confidence about what I could do against the best ruckman in the competition and I took that into the next few games.”
Despite the accolade, Gawn said the competition amongst his opposition ruck rivals remained as fierce as ever.
“A couple of young guys like Brody Grundy [from Collingwood] and Tom Hickey [from St Kilda] tested me both times I played them this year.
“Tom’s the same age as me and Brody is a couple of years younger so they’re guys I’m going to be playing a lot over the next few years.
“They both had stellar seasons as well so it already makes me want to start running and training this off season so that I can get better, bigger and stronger for next season.”
After signaling his intent to become one of the game’s top ruckmen at the start of the year, Gawn said he is still driven to improve.
“I’m sure every player wants to be the number one player in the competition in their position – I just said what everyone else was thinking,” he said.
“Team success obviously comes first.
“I know that if I can play my role to the best of my ability against all the opposition rucks, the team will be better for it.
“As the opposition rucks are getting better, I need to step up my game as well.”
Story – Melbournefc.com.au