The positions of AFL – Midfielders
A ruckman is typically (though not always) the tallest player on an AFL team. Their primary role is to provide a physical, aggressive contest at every stoppage – centre bounces, boundary throw-ins and ball-ups. The ruckman plays a vital role in a team establishing an advantage at stoppages and clearances, giving the team first use of the ball. Winning a “hit-out/Contest” is not enough; it must be a “hit-out” to the advantage of the team’s midfield.
Watch Aaron Sandilands of the Fremantle Dockers (one of the tallest players to ever play AFL) in this video below. Take note of his work at contests to get superior body position to his opponent, as well as his work around the ground.
One of the most demanding positions in AFL today there are typically 3 “onballers” on the field at a time. They are positioned at contests around the ground looking to clean up the ball from the ruckman/marking forwards and back to clear it out to players running past, or move the ball into the forward line. Important attributes are clean hands, accurate handballing, accurate kicking, good decision-making and having a high aerobic capacity. Onballers will rotate on and off the ground regularly in order to maintain their intensity when on. Defensively they must be able to read the play and compete with their opposition player at contests as well as stick with them. Tackling, smothering and shepherding are important physical skills they need.
One of the elite midfielders in the AFL is Sam Mitchell. Watch the video below of him finding open teammates and the different skills he uses (weighted kick/penetrating kick/snap/tap on/handball) to get teammates open. Also Mitchell is one of the most even players in the AFL in that he kicks roughly 50% of his kicks with his right foot and 50% with his left!
Similar to an onballer, (see above) wingers are fast and fit. They provide an outlet for the ball coming out of defence both down the boundary line and as an option for a switch from one side of the ground to another. Defensively they play an important role at contests locking the ball in and also tracking back into the half back line to provide extra cover.