CHRIS Fagan has again put Brisbane’s ruck position up for grabs, and incumbent Stefan Martin is facing a stiff challenge to retain his spot.
Martin has been hampered during pre-season by back and ankle niggles and 23-year-old Archie Smith has pounced, forwarding a compelling case for the number one spot.
With Martin reduced to playing as a forward in match simulation sessions, Smith has impressed, regularly among the best players with his clean hit-out work and improved follow-up at ground level.
When the pair squared off in Friday’s intraclub – Martin’s first full run in the ruck – Smith got the points, although his more senior opponent will be improved for the run.
It’s an intriguing run-up to round one with the duo duking it out and Oscar McInerney seemingly locked in as a third tall forward that will back-up the main man.
Speaking to AFL.com.au prior to the intraclub, Martin said he was happy with his progress but looking over his shoulder at the improving competition.
“Having Fages put the ruck spot up for grabs has spurred me on to see if I can improve my game,” Martin said.
“I enjoy the challenge.
“I want to squeeze every last drop out of my career as I can.
“There’ll be a day when that’s out of my control, but I still feel it’s within my control.
“I’m as desperate as ever. I want to be part of this rising team.”
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Martin has runs on the board, and plenty of them, finishing third in last year’s best and fairest to make it four straight years of top-four finishes.
He’s missed just four games in the past 100.
Despite the interrupted pre-season Martin’s speed and endurance is better than ever. He just needs more time to contest and compete.
“I’ve had to temper my expectations of my pre-season a bit,” he said.
“I enjoy training and competing at training. I’ve had to have a bit of trust in the work I’ve done the last 12 years.
“I’m definitely keeping an eye on how many days there are until round one because those days are now important for me because I haven’t had the match play the other boys have had.”
Smith is entering his sixth season, and after failing to add to his nine career games in 2018, is hungrier than ever.
Martin is in the final year of his contract and said he had nothing but praise for the two men chasing his spot.
“I think both of their follow up [work] is more instinctive now,” he said.
“They’re getting stronger too. Their workrate around the ground is improving.
“They’re always in front of a computer screen trying to pick apart the best rucks in the League and they audit their own games often and I think that shows in the way they’re addressing the weaknesses they’ve had.
“I’ve got to make every day count.
“It’s been a good little mental challenge for me, I’m still very optimistic.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS