The day Max Gawn became invincible

It’s hard to believe, but wind back two seasons and Max Gawn was a little-known ruckman fighting for his career.

 

Gawn has been recognised by his fellow players as the game’s No.1 ruckman, with the No.17 ranking in this year’s AFL Players’ Top 50.

But the Demons overlooked Gawn for selection in the first 10 games of the 2015 season.

Two games after the 208cm, 111kg big man finally forced his way back into the side, everything changed.

Gawn led Melbourne to its first win in 10 years at Geelong’s fortress, Simonds Stadium. His stats looked like this:

 

MAX GAWN V GEELONG: ROUND 12, 2015

19 disposalsEight marks (six contested)
44 hit-outsOne goal

 

“He just exploded that day,” then-coach Paul Roos told AFL.com.au.

“He’d shown it a bit in the VFL, but we were waiting for him to clunk a few marks at AFL level.

“He was able to say to people, ‘I’ve got some genuine talent and genuine ability’, and that included our coaching staff.”

After the match, Gawn told a journalist he felt ‘invincible’ after his career-best performance.

Roos was quick to jump on the ruckman’s comments and when the players came into the club for game review the following week he had written ‘Mr Invincible’ alongside Gawn’s name on the whiteboard.

“We were all able to have a laugh about it and it gave us something to latch onto for the rest of the year,” Roos said.

Big Cat Mark Blicavs was Gawn’s opponent that afternoon.

“I remember the first quarter he just marked everything that came his way,” Blicavs said.

“He gave his midfielders first use but he also covered the ground really well for his size.”

Boosted by a big pre-season, Gawn ramped up that workrate in 2016 and produced a career-defining year.

 

MAX GAWN’S 2016

22 games928 hit-outs (No.1 in AFL) 
16 goals16 Brownlow votes
All Australian3rd in club best and fairest

 

Roos credited Gawn’s improved aerobic capacity with the ruckman’s evolution, also noting more continuity in his training after knee issues restricted Gawn in the past.

“Another good pre-season this time around should see him go up another gear in 2017,” Roos said.

He may not be invincible, but Gawn begins an important season for the Demons as one of the AFL’s toughest ruckmen to combat.

“It’s his consistency from week to week which makes him so dangerous,” Blicavs said.

Story – Ben Guthrie, AFL.com.au