There are three compelling reasons why Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy deserves to be talked about as arguably the form ruckman of the competition and a contender for higher honours at the end of the season.

While his body of work and consistency might still be behind four-time All-Australian Max Gawn, Darcy's best football this season has been the best produced by any ruckman.

There are three key indicators where he has the edge on Gawn, Collingwood big man Brodie Grundy and West Coast star Nic Naitanui when it comes to his ceiling in 2021.

The first is hitouts to advantage. In round 16 against Carlton, Darcy had 22 taps to advantage – the most of any from the big four ruckmen, edging Grundy (21) and Gawn and Naitanui, who have both hit season highs of 17.

While lifting his average hitouts to 29.9 this season, it has been clear that Darcy is directing his hits with more precision, particularly at inside 50 stoppages when his midfielders are on the move.

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His combination with young midfielder Caleb Serong against the Hawks was a highlight, setting up many of the NAB AFL Rising Star's 10 clearances.

The second area where Darcy's best has been the best among ruckmen this season is intercept marks.

Fitter and smarter in his fifth season, Darcy has pushed into defence when needed and he took seven intercept marks against the Hawks, edging Gawn's best effort this season (five) and well ahead of Grundy (three) and Naitanui (one).

His intercept marking provided protection from the Hawks' deep entries on Saturday, and at other times gave the Dockers' repeat inside 50s when he marked their clearing kicks in the midfield.

The third indicator is goals, with Darcy booting a season best three against the Hawks in round four, ahead of Gawn (two), Grundy (two) and Naitanui (one).

Having shown his ceiling, the challenge for Darcy now is to maintain his form, something coach Justin Longmuir hinted at on Saturday night.

"The only thing I would say is that there have been very, very good rucks in the comp who have been doing it for year on end," Longmuir said after Darcy's performance against the Hawks, which earned him a perfect 10 votes in the AFL Coaches' Association Award.

"Some of the best rucks have been doing it for four or five-year periods.

"I couldn't be any more pleased with the way Sean's applied himself on and off the field.

"The challenge now is can he keep backing it up week after week, and he's done it now for the last 14-15 weeks."

When it comes to season-long averages, Darcy (10.6) edges Gawn (10.3) in hitouts to advantage, but trails Grundy and Naitanui, who each average 11.9.

Gawn, who would be leading the ruck race for this year's Therabody AFL All-Australian Team, averages more intercept marks – 2.2 to 1.5 – over the course of the season, making it a more consistent feature of his game.

The Melbourne captain's hitouts (31.2 to 29.9) and disposals (18.6 to 16.7) are also superior to Darcy, while the Freo big man has the edge in clearances (4.6 to 3.7).

The Dockers have seen Darcy's ceiling, and what it can do for the young team in its fight for a finals spot.

If they can see him match the consistency of Gawn in the final six rounds, then the fight for the All-Australian No.1 ruck spot is up for grabs.

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