Sporting HQ


‘The Tomahawk’: How the big men are taking advantage of stoppages more than ever

If you’ve been watching ruck contests closely this year it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the ruckmen are seemingly taking it out of the ruck more than ever. This phenomenon is enabled by the 2019 AFL rule changes whereby a ruckman who takes possession directly from a stoppage is no longer treated as having had prior opportunity, in tandem with the need to nominate your ruckman. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the prospect of taking the ball directly out of the ruck becoming an increasingly important aspect of stoppage planning, with teams getting much better at it.

How Rucking has changed

However, with less rotations this year and the 6-6-6 rule, fatigue is becoming more of a factor than ever, meaning that big-bodied key position players often find themselves nominating for ruck contests to rest their designated rucks. It is these contests that prompt size mismatches, allowing the big player to push out their opposition and get a big clearance or shot on goal, skipping the middleman and making stoppages an easier 1v1 contest. Moreover, with how new the rule is there has been lots of confusion around its application, with umpires not knowing at what stage the rucks have achieved prior opportunity, meaning there is almost little to no consequence to taking it out of the ruck at times.

Essentially, this situation is becoming more common in our game, leaving commentators very aware of the idea but unable to put a proper label on it, often telling the viewers to watch out for ‘x player’ or simply identifying the size difference in ruck contests. One of the biggest proponents of this increasingly important strategy would be the 32-year-old key forward Tom Hawkins, whose sheer size and strength allows him to easily shove out opposition ruckman and have a quick ping on goal when possible. This has prompted us here at SportingHQ to think that this pushout and grab in ruck contests near the face of the goals should be given a name, for the benefit of commentators, strategists, as well as the viewers at home.

Naming this phenomenon

To do this we have looked across the pond towards sports where specific moves have been named after the players who used them. Within soccer/football, the primary examples would be how Johan Cruyff famously turned defenders inside out with his dribbling move later named the ‘Cruyff Turn’ and how Antonin Panenka lightly chipped the ball straight down the middle from a penalty, prompting that shot to be called the ‘Panenka’. In terms of basketball, the practically un-guardable ‘Dream Shake’ was named in honour of Hakeem Olajuwon. Lastly but perhaps most relevant, the niche action of ‘Mankading’ whereby the bowler would halt their runup and stump the non-striker was named after India’s Vinoo Mankad, something which has left the second batsmen forever conscious of when they start their run.

‘The Tomahawk’

With this in mind, we’ve gone over a couple names for taking it out of the ruck for a quick fire shot on goal, ultimately coming up with ‘The Tomahawk’. This name refers directly to Tom Hawkins’ nickname and helps bring a unique sense of legacy and culture to the game that should hopefully help to further immortalise the players who have contributed to the changing of our game. Regardless, we are certainly open to suggestions on what we should all dub this move and hopefully we see it being identified a bit more in games.

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