Max Gawn can enter AFL’s elite

Max+Gawn+AFL+Rd+4+Melbourne+v+GWS+yhMDe9CRs3blFormer Melbourne best and fairest winner Jeff White says current Demons ruckman Max Gawn has what it takes to enter the top echelon of big men in the AFL.

Gawn, 24, was unveiled on Wednesday night as one of five additions to Melbourne’s leadership group, after impressing over 13 straight games at the back end of last season,

White, the 2004 All-Australian ruckman, said Gawn was ready to take the competition by the scruff of the neck in his sixth year on the Demons’ list.

“He’s got the potential to be not only an outstanding leader and player at the Melbourne football club, but a really good high-quality ruckman in the league,” White said.

“He’s mobile around the ground, he reads the play well.”

More than anything though, White has been impressed with Gawn’s tap-work. “But just his hands. That’s the key with any ruckman. You can teach them to be smart, you can teach players to run smart, and run to position.

“But the thing is actually getting it to you midfielders. He’s got really good touch, he reaches the ball at its highest point, and that’s what you want.

“You don’t want a 6ft7, 6ft8 ruckman halfway in the air. You want it to be full reach. And that’s what he does. It’s quite hard to teach that sort of stuff, because a lot of it’s in relation to timing.”

White, also a former Gold Coast ruck coach, said he had witnessed improvements in Gawn’s game. “He’s changed his angles at centre bounces. He’s just got to keep getting better and better each week. There’s going to be games where the ruckman outplays him, and there’s going to be games where he outplays the ruckman. It’s all a learning experience for him.

“If he can keep his body healthy he’s got a big future in front of him.”

Gawn has been in strong form during the pre-season, among the best in both of the Demons’ first two NAB Challenge matches. His importance to the club has been heightened as back-up ruckman Jake Spencer battles to overcome a foot injury. Gawn has been named in the Melbourne squad to face St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.