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Eastaugh on Freo’s ruck options

Aaron Sandilands is set to be Fremantle's primary ruck option in 2018.

Fr according to assistant coach Simon Eastaugh.

Freo have employed tall forward Matt Taberner as a pinch-hitter to support their rucks this pre-season and are likely to continue the experiment against the Eagles on Sunday at HBF Arena.

First-year ruck Lloyd Meek has been named along with Sandilands in Freo’s 24-man team, with Meek and Sandilands likely to split game time.

"Matt, to his credit, has worked really hard on so many facets of his game," Eastaugh said.

"I think we're seeing, from a forward perspective, his one-on-one marking and ruckwork have all improved.

"It’s really about his drive to cement a spot in the side and he sees that as an opportunity for him to be a part of the team."

Eastaugh said that the game is moving away from sides naming two rucks in the same team.

“I think we’re seeing, with the trend of the game now, that teams have that pinch-hit ruckman (as a) back up, because they don’t play a huge amount of game time in there,” Eastaugh said.

“We’re seeing now that legitimate AFL ruckmen are playing 80, 90 per cent of their game time in the ruck and having their break on the bench.

“The way the team’s shaping up, and the competition’s shaping up, we’re probably looking more at the (one) ruck and that pinch hitter.”

With Sandilands' protégé Sean Darcy waiting in the wings, many expect that 2018 will be the 35-year-old's farewell season in AFL ranks.

Sandilands has made 15 appearances in the past two years due to broken ribs and hamstring issues. 

Eastaugh said the decision when to call time on his decorated career was in the 211cm big man's hands.

"Physically his body's been though a fair bit. It’s going to come down to whether mentally he can conjure up the desire and willpower to face up to another pre-season again," Eastaugh said. 

"It’s up to Aaron and he's got a young family, he's got a business. He’s got plenty on his plate but at the same time he's here every day and still enjoying it as much as he did when he first started."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs