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Give young ruckmen a go: Cox
Give young ruckmen a go: Cox

Dean Cox has urged clubs to give teenage big men more opportunities after only one WAFL colts ruckman was invited to any of the AFL draft tests.

Nineteen WAFL players were invited to the elite AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne, but the only ruckmen are senior players - East Fremantle's Cameron Symonds and South Fremantle's Myles Bolger - and they were overlooked at last year's draft.

East Fremantle's Mack Byron- Prendergast, who didn't play State under-18s, is the only colts ruckman invited to the State tests.

Clubs have become wary of recruiting young ruckmen because of the time they take to develop.

Of the leading hit-out winners for each AFL team in 2012, just five were originally chosen at the national draft.

Most ruckmen are now either from rookie lists, recycled players or were drafted as mature-age recruits. Cox, who started on West Coast's rookie list and has developed into a superstar, said ruckmen wouldn't develop properly unless they were at an AFL club.

"Hopefully the clubs can put in the time to develop a ruckman," Cox said. "Ruckmen and key forwards aren't generally instant successes.

"It's a matter of getting them into the system as quickly as possible and trying to develop them when you've got full-time coaching staff who can analyse your game and the opposition ruckman's game at a high level.

"When you do get there, there is so much to learn. A 17 or 18-year-old would have a lot more benefit out of it if he is taken at an earlier age."

It will be the third time Bolger has attended the national testing.

He battled foot injuries while part of the AFL Academy, but fought back to play well last season. He has managed only six reserves games this year because of hamstring problems.

Symonds, 19, made his league debut in round 11 and has averaged six possessions, two marks and 11 hit-outs from nine matches.

The WAFC has established a tall players academy for next season in the wake of clubs targeting mature-aged ruckmen.

Cox reminded everyone of his amazing talents on Friday night when he was best on ground against Geelong with 23 possessions, eight marks, 45 hit-outs and three goals.

The five-times All-Australian rucked against 29-year-old Orren Stephenson, who Geelong recruited at last year's draft, and upgraded rookie Josh Walker.

Cox said it was wrong to expect teenagers to develop as quickly as Nic Naitanui, but that didn't mean they shouldn't be given a chance.

"I was as raw as anything," Cox said. "The craft of rucking has to be developed over a five-year period.

"You're going to get Nic, you're going to get some freak athletes that can do certain things, but generally most ruckmen take time."

Claremont key forward Tom Lee, South Fremantle's Ben Saunders and Subiaco midfielder George Hampson are among the mature-age players invited to the State testing. Lee has been outstanding this year and kicked six goals in the Foxtel Cup grand final and Saunders is leading the WAFL goal kicking after crossing to South Fremantle from Claremont.

State under-18 players from 2011 who were overlooked at the draft - Max Duffy (EF) and Shane Nelson (WP) - have also been given the chance to impress.

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  • National combine: * Dayle Garlett (SD); Jesse Hogan, Jack Martin, Shannon Taylor, (Cl); Harry Marsh, Marco Paparone, Josh Simpson, Cameron Symonds (EF); Jackson Ramsay (EP); Kamdyn McIntosh, Laine Wilkins (Peel); Brandt Colledge (P); Myles Bolger, Adam Carter, Sean Lynch, Mason Shaw, Marvin Warrell (SF); Chris Deluca (Su); Nick Rodda (WP).

  • State combine: *Tom Lee (Cl); Jack Byron-Prendergast, Max Duffy, Alex Howson (EF); Riley Hutchison, Shaq McKenzie (EP); Dean Kent, Chris Yarran (P); Dale Hamilton, Tim Kelly, Sam Lowrie, Ben Saunders, Brendan Verrier (SF); Dylan Clarke, George Hampson (Su); Brayden Antonio, Shane Nelson (WP).