My overriding aim in coaching all my teams over my coaching career was to develop every player irrespective of their ability or any importance in winning. This was especially true of my coaching young players beginning their football career. Therefore, I taught every player the skills necessary to act as a ruckman. Some players develop physically earlier than others and may not develop further while other may be late developers. In my own case, all through my junior years, I was one of the smallest in the team. But, in the year leading up to my eighteenth birthday I grew over six inches(15centimetres) to be over six feet (185 centimetres) in height.
So at training, I would set up simple drills where every player would practice rucking, solo. They would be taught to use both hands, to palm the ball forward, to the left, right and backwards. They would use both hands and learn to punch the ball as well. (Punching was, to me, at the junior stage, an advanced skill).
The next stage was to have the boys practice rucking against a team mate with a third player throwing the ball up.
Next, a simple drill introduced the rover to the process. Here, five players would work together alternating between being a ruck, rover or the boy throwing the ball up.
Lastly, the drill develops into a centre bounce/ball-up situation where I taught the boys how to set up and we practice every player doing every role.
It is also important to teach your players how to jump for the ball as well as how to protect themselves from injury caused by knees coming up in the jumping action.
The rucking dimension of the game is not just rucking the ball. It is about where to hit the ball, where to run and so on.
Here are just a few pointers I gave my players to help them become successful.
• Most ruckman are right handed so the action of using that tends to push the ball forward and to the left in junior and lower underage football. So your defensive player should be positioned to take advantage of that should your ruckman not win the ball-up.
• The ruckman must learn to propel the ball into a space where his team mate will run.
• If you have a winning ruck combination, you can set up so all your centre bounce players are facing their goal and the ball is rushed forward into space with all these players running in support.
• The alternative when your team is losing most rucks is to have your players facing their opponent and moving towards them as the ball-up begins.
Of course, the final bit in your players’ development in rucking is to practice in trial games during your weekly training and to use your runner to give advice to your ruckman during a competition game. There are two areas where players fail to compete well. Firstly, they begin their run up to the rucking contest too far from the ball up. The second error is to not extend their arm to its greatest height to get to the ball at a higher level and before their opponent.