Brodie Grundy, the AFL’s biggest midfielder


There is a sound logic to the idea, though, for Grundy is one of Collingwood’s best clearance players. His best asset is his strength around the contest and his running ability to work over the other ruckman. His tap work is good but so, too, is the work of Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron, both bigger than him.

“Me and Mason have been planting the seed with Bucks for years,” Grundy said.

“We did it a couple of times in the pre-season and it was good. It only happened because the midfield were happy to try it, though.

“I said to the midfield a couple of times ‘jump out, I am going to start’ and they were happy to do it. It wouldn’t have happened if they said ‘no, get out’ or ‘go back in the ruck’.

“I think Nathan takes some convincing yet.

“If anything it gives me a good appreciation of how to make their jobs easier. If I am in there I can see what it is like, am I hitting too hard? Is it too soft? Is it too long? It’s bloody hard.”

Where to hit the ball, how hard to hit it and the value of a ruckman have been the conversations stemming from Grundy’s last two games.

The second-to-last game was the preliminary final loss to Greater Western Sydney when Grundy had an astonishing 73 hit-outs and Collingwood had 58 more hit-outs than the Giants but still lost the clearances in the game by 19.

That’s not a good advertisement for ruckmen.

In the next match, against the Western Bulldogs in round one, Grundy was superb and not only was he clearly the best player on the ground, he was clearly working harder to make sure his team could do more with the ball from when it left his palm in the ruck. He was putting it down the throat of his mids and hitting it to places he wasn’t in the preliminary final.

“We have definitely worked on the midfield connection,” Grundy said. ”We feel that’s an area we have still got room to grow and where we can get an advantage.

“What people saw is probably me taking more ownership in there and pushing a few hits, longer hits, me taking more responsibility and sensing the moment.

Brodie Grundy has been working on the midfield connection.Credit:AAP

“Obviously it was disappointing we lost the game against GWS but we looked at it and thought what we can do better and we saw a bit of that last Friday against the Dogs.”

That is a part, Grundy admits, of him growing in game awareness. It is also partly him growing in stature and leadership in the group and asserting himself among the midfielders for where he will hit the ball, not just where they want it.

The midfield mix has changed too. Jordy De Goey, the rare sort of player you want and need in multiple positions simultaneously for he is the best clearance player they have but also their best forward, has started in the middle. Jamie Elliott is finally fit and is a good clearance player. And then there is Tyler Brown, one game into his AFL career.

“Tyler Brown showed he has absolute class and silkiness,” Grundy said.

Getting excited, he perks up and jumps in, borrowing an early observation the coach made: “He looks like a young Nat Fyfe.”

Do you not think he has a bit of Scott Pendlebury’s time and movement? (OK, admittedly getting a bit carried away about a first-game player here).

“Ha! No way, he is so much more agile than Pendles. And quicker.”

Brown is one game in so, you know, cool your jets, but he is a player that made for a different look about Collingwood’s midfield set-up in that one and only game this year.

“But what they all show is clear ball-winning ability, Jamie and Tyler. We want to be as flexible as we can,” he says.

“We have been trying to capitalise more as a midfield group on my hits and a bit of that is me, a bit of that is the midfield. I need to be more predictable to them.”

Part of that change is Grundy taking more responsibility in here also. He has become a leader of the team, which is only right for a player who signed a long-term, good money contract to stay at the club.

That is a part, Grundy admits, of him growing in game awareness. It is also partly him growing in stature and leadership in the group – he is a nominated leader this year – and asserting himself among the midfielders for where he will hit the ball, not just where they want it.

Whether he is a ruckman who runs or a midfielder who rucks, Grundy is taking the ball and his game to new places.

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