Essendon champion Scott Lucas says Shaun McKernan should maintain his focus on attack if he’s handed the ruck duties against Hawthorn on Saturday.
With Matthew Leuenberger out with a hamstring injury and Tom Bellchambers making his comeback from knee surgery, McKernan shapes as an obvious fit to take the number one ruck role against the Hawks.
McKernan showed some promising signs throughout the JLT Community Series, booting six goals across the three games.
Lucas told the Friday Footy Panel it’s that offensive threat that could pose problems for the opposition.
“He was excellent on Sunday in Bendigo [against Geelong], he did a very good job,” he said.
“His need for the team is to be a threat on offence, so he was able to kick the three goals which is really important to make the opposition ruckman accountable.”
Essendon were well beaten in the hit-outs (63-24) when Leuenberger went down in the final JLT Community Series match against Geelong.
But the clearances (44-41) remained even.
“If he can break even in hit-outs that will be a huge win for Essendon and then you can rely on your ground level players to do well at the clearances,” Lucas said.
“The clearance work was solid on the weekend considering hit-outs were around minus 30.
“Often you’ll hear midfielders say it’s easy to plan when you know you’re going to get beaten in the ruck, rather than being unsure.”
McKernan has played 49 games throughout his eight years in the AFL.
Essendon’s all-time leading goal kicker, Matthew Lloyd, told the Friday Footy Panel this might be the chance he needs.
“This is the first time he knows he’s going to be the starting ruckman for the first two or three weeks and it gives him an opportunity,” Lloyd said.
“It takes an injury like this sometimes for someone to really make their mark on the AFL and hopefully that’s his time now.”