Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn has credited Greg Stafford's arrival at the club as the reason Melbourne's tall players have improved this season.

In a sign of how far behind Melbourne were in previous years, Gawn said the Demons had never had a ruck coach helping the players at training. Former Hawthorn and Geelong ruckman David Loats worked with the Demons on match day when Gawn started in 2011, but he played only four games that year.

Under Mark Neeld, the club didn't have any ruck coach and Gawn said Stafford, who played 204 games for Sydney and Richmond, had been an enormous help this year.

"The big thing with Greg is that he played a lot as a forward at Richmond so he's a very good source for me," Gawn said.

"He is really big on not just being a beanstalk ruckman like the days of old when they just tapped the ball and watched it go on. You have to follow up, get involved in the clearance, tackle and stuff like that.

"There's a good argument that ruckmen should do their own type of training because we don't really kick the ball and we don't run to the same areas. There's different drills the ruckmen should be doing, so he's really helped with my development."

Gawn's contested marking has been one of the highlights of his season this year with 10 powerful grabs in his four games. With Mark Jamar playing as the No.1 ruckman, Gawn spends a lot of time forward alongside Chris Dawes and Cam Pedersen.

The Demons have taken 26 more contested marks than the opposition in games where Gawn has played and he said that would be crucial against Fremantle tomorrow.

"Quick footy is the one way we can avoid them getting the loose man back," Gawn said.

"There were a few times on the weekend where me, Chris Dawes and Cameron Pedersen were able to get one on ones because of quick ball movement. There's no better challenge than Fremantle because they're the best defensive side and are very good at getting that loose man back."

The Demons' average losing margin to Fremantle in their past three encounters has been 82 points.

Gawn said the team had taken confidence from being more competitive this year, but had to turn strong efforts into wins.

"We don't get in that position often and we haven't been in the last two or three years. There's a few areas for the players to find a way to win the game," Gawn said.

"We beat Essendon by one point so you can see we can do it. You do have to learn to win. If you look at Nathan Jones, he has played 170 games and won only 40 of them. So we're being trained to learn to win rather than just being competitive."

… ruckmen should do their own type of training …" *Max Gawn *

The West Australian

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