Versus – Round 4: Cox v Leunberger
This clash looms as a real unique comparison as they are both at different ends of their careers. Once is a dominant big man who, for years has been the first picked ruckman in Dream Team. The other is a young, emerging ruck who is starting to take the AFL by storm with his size and ability.
This clash looms as a real unique comparison as they are both at different ends of their careers. Once is a dominant big man who, for years has been the first picked ruckman in Dream Team. The other is a young, emerging ruck who is starting to take the AFL by storm with his size and ability. In many ways, Leuenberger is the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Cox’s Qui-Gon Jinn; however 2012 should see Leuey step out of the shadows and become a ruck master in his own right (hopefully not at the expense of Cox to the lightsabre of injury that is Darth Maul).
In the blue corner we have Dean Cox, the most expensive (justifiably so) ruckman in DT who has the ability to consistently dominate his opponents and synonymously rack up massive scores; and in the red corner we have the most promising big man in the game, who is quickly carving out a reputation as one of the best talents in the game.
Games played: 22
High Score: 155
Low Score: 57
No. 100 + scores: 12
Games played: 22
High Score: 140
Low Score: 48
No. 100 + scores: 9
Cox was THE premier ruckman in 2011. As the only ruck to average over the 100 mark, he was also the only man in his class to sit inside the top 20 players’ bracket at the end of the year (Ranked #11 overall). Big Coxy enjoyed his 4th year with a 100 + average and is primed to do so again in 2012. With an amazing scoring potential, he is undoubtedly the best ruckman in the game. Taking himself to a new level in 2011, Cox scored over 110 in all but one of his 100 + games, including 4 games over 135! Enough said.
Take aside his first 5 games where he played primarily in attack (and averaged a solid 76.2), Leuey returned to the ruck in round 7 and made an immediate impact averaging an encouraging 97.7 ppg over his remaining 17 games. Scoring over 100 x 9 times, with 6 of those 109 or more; he has shown the definite ability to dominate all around the ground. Equally adept at amassing possessions as he is at gaining hitouts, Berger’s natural improvement should see him continue to score from everywhere; as well as improve his average to be verging on the 100 mark.
Cox wins this battle hands down, however I expect the margin will be a lot closer by Round 23 this year.
Both men played 22 games in 2011 (with Cox also playing all 3 finals for West Coast) so are coming off strong, consistent seasons. Starting with the master, he has managed to play a full season 5 times in his 11 seasons, including 3 out of the last 4 years. Based on recent years he has been one of the more reliable options in terms of durability. With the exception of a freak injury, the only factor that may play against Cox this year is that of resting. Depending on how strongly West Coast are positioned at the end of the year, Woosha could look at resting the big man in round 21 against Port (rnd 2 of finals in DT). However if 2011 was anything to go on, the chances of this happening are fairly slim.
The apprentice on the other hand has only had 2 seasons we can judge as it took him 3 years to break into Brisbane’s line up behind Jamie Charman. Since his breakout into the best 22 in 2010, Berger has played 44 games out of a possible 44. This suggests he is going to be a dependable option in the ruck, whilst steadily improving his DT scores in the process. Going on the last 2 years as a comparison due to the above reasoning, these two are hard to split – with both being affected by injuries in the past however now appear fit and ready for another 22 games in 2012.
As two players at opposing ends of the spectrum, the question of value is debateable. Whilst Cox is coming off his best year in the AFL, many will think he can continue to improve and push his average even higher in 2012. However with his age now over the topical 30 mark, statistics suggest he may start to decline – especially with a talented and youthful Nic Natinui waiting in the wings to take over. Therefore, based on his high price, Cox isn’t a ‘value pick’ by any stretch. This argument will be made null and void by many given coaches usually don’t look for value in their top premiums.
Leuenberger on the other hand is just starting to hit his straps; and by no means has he peaked yet in terms of DT. In a year where he will be primed to elevate his average to between 95-100; being priced at 93 will give him the edge over Cox as his price may not be this low again. If he breaks into the true ruck premium range of 100 +, he will be one of the ruck steals of the season.
There has been no negative news out of the Eagles camp about the ruck veteran. I’m going to go along the lines of the popular mantra in this case – no news is good news. This suggests that he is travelling along fine and should be primed for a strong start to the season. Coach John Worsfold will be looking to manage his experienced players through the preseason so as to not overload them. For this reason, we may not see much of Cox until round 1.
Similar to Cox, Leuenberger hasn’t put a foot wrong in the offseason, looking to extend his run off 44 consecutive games in 2012. We will likely see him in a game or two during the NAB series as Voss looks to work out how he will use new recruit Ben Hudson in 2012. It is highly possible that Hudson is simply insurance for the Berger, however even if he does have to share the ruck load with the former Bulldog; this may end up helping his DT scores with a few more goals the likely result. As always, keep an eye on the club injury lists for any surprises; however barring some terrible luck, expect to see both big men suit up for game 1 of the season in the # 1 ruck spot for their respective teams.
West Coast have a great start to the year in 2012, only playing 3 x top 8 teams from last year before their bye. Starting off with the Dogs, Demons and Giants; expect your Eagles’ stars to fire early. Their draw does get harder in the second half though, playing the Pies twice inside 10 rounds. The teams they play twice in 2012 are the Pies, Hawks, Kangaroos, Dockers and Lions. Of the top 4 teams from last year, they appear to have the best draw. The Lions on the other hand have an even more favourable one – particularly in the latter half of the year. In total – they only play 2011 finalists Blues and Eagles twice, along with the Demons, Suns and Bulldogs. In the wake of their round 11 bye, Brisbane have a strong finish to the year; playing the Saints, Suns, Tigers, Crows, Port and Dogs all inside the final 8 rounds. This should enable them to come home with a wet sail and give the finals a real crack in 2012.
Bye Week Relevance
Cox and Leuey both have the round 11 bye in 2012 so will share it with the likes of Adelaide, GWS, North and Western Bulldogs. The round 11 bye is undoubtedly the worst for rucks this year. As well as these two, teams will also be missing popular choices Goldstein, HMac, Giles, Nic Nat and Jacobs in this round. Based on the way the byes are structured this season it is advisable that coaches don’t pick more than 1 player with the round 11 bye unless they are sacrificing the round (more on this from Warnie soon). If you are one of the brave coaches going into the season with 1 premium ruck and 3 rookies, you could consider starting with one of the above, then upgrading to another in round 12 – this would be one of the only viable ways to have two R11 rucks and get away with it. Starting with two would be a sure-fire muck up.
In a battle of Master v Apprentice, there is no clear winner here. Your choice of one of the above will come down to a matter of opinion and structure. At over $70k cheaper, Leuenberger provides better value and more upside. However Dean Cox is an absolute champion and has been the best ruckman in Dream Team for years. I have a feeling both may average over 100 in 2012 and may just finish the year as the top 2 rucks in the land. Choose one and upgrade to the other; or pick one and stick to your guns. Whatever you choose – rest assured that these two big men are both great choices for your team in 2012.
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