Clash of the AFL ruck titans at the Gabba
MATTHEW Clarke will be an interested onlooker when two of the competition's premier ruckmen go head to head at the Gabba tomorrow night.
A one-time Brisbane big man who's now an Adelaide assistant coach, Clarke describes Stefan Martin (Lions) and Sam Jacobs (Crows) as "contrasting athletes".
"That contest will be an important one," he said.
"It will be interesting to assess because they've both got different strengths.
"It's probably going (to come down to) who can play the game on their terms for the majority of the day."
While Martin and Jacobs sit second and third, respectively, behind Fremantle giant Aaron Sandilands for total hitouts this season, they impact their teams on so many levels.
When it comes to first-choice rucks, Martin is No.1 for disposals, forward-50m entries and clearances. Jacobs is No.1 for defensive-50m rebounds and No.2 for both marks and contested marks behind Hawk Ben McEvoy.
"Martin is clearly just a really great competitor. He follows up," Clarke said. "Sammy is more traditional... his marking has been a feature this year."
Clarke, who played 258 games for the Bears and Lions (1993-99), Crows (2000-06) and Saints (2007) and now in charge of midfield development at Adelaide, has been impressed by Martin's ability to resurrect his career at Brisbane after moving from the Demons.
He played 57 games in five years at Melbourne and then just a further 17 in his first two at the Gabba, as he struggled to master the ruck-forward role. He has thrived after becoming the full-time big man.
"What he's been able to do ... he was was almost out of the system going back four years," Clarke said.
"He's turned himself into an All-Australian contender over the last few years. It's been really impressive."
Martin's work at the stoppages will be doubly important tomorrow night with clearance king Tom Rockliff (shoulder) sidelined.
Crows star Rory Sloane will also look to make an impact in that area after being restricted to just 28 disposals in the past two weeks.
His lack of influence when tagged by Shannon Gibson and Bernie Vince has played no small part in the Crows dropping games against North and Melbourne.
But, Clarke said Sloane's teammates needed to step up.
"He's clearly a really important player for us that opposition teams have targeted," he said.
"But it hasn't been the first time it's happened. It's been effective the last couple of weeks more so because what's been happening with the other players.
"His output hasn't quite been at the level he would want, but he's still a fierce competitor. He laid 12 tackles last week. He's working really hard.
"It's more about the rest of the group."
While the Crows (6-2) will look to win an eighth straight game in Queensland, the Lions (1-7) will want a first victory on home soil this year.
It's first versus last, but Clarke said the visitors would be wary of the young Lions.
"Those kids have got talent, there's no doubt about that," he said. "They were picked early in the draft for a reason."
"We've just got to make sure we're well prepared."