By Matt Fotia
Woori Yallock ruckman Zac Monkhorst is continuing to grow in confidence as the 2019 AFL Outer East Premier Division season rolls on, after his Tiger side grabbed their sixth win of the season on Saturday defeating Wandin 16.14 (110) to 9.10 (64).
Wandin’s star ruckman – ex-Carlton and Gold Coast Sun – Daniel Gorringe was a late withdrawal from Saturday’s 2018 Grand Final rematch, straining his calf during the warm up, leaving Jordan Spencer and Clinton Johnston to tackle the in form Tiger.
Monkhorst took full advantage of the last minute change of opponent, racking up over 50 hit outs, a number of clearances and three goals, to be named the Tiger’s second best, behind on baller Kane Thompson.
Monkhorst is enjoying a breakout year as Woori Yallock’s number one ruckman, with brother Ryley moving to Eastern Football League powerhouse Balwyn this off-season.
The Tiger’s number 20 has kicked 14 goals and had eight appearances in the best players this season – two of which were for best on ground – and says having consistency in his role has been a massive factor in his improvement.
“Last year I spent a little bit of time in the ruck, but I was much more in between roles, but this year has been a lot better, being able to consolidate my position in the ruck.”
Monkhorst has a fair on ball brigade at his disposal, with names like Hayden Smith, Kane Thompson, Jake Matthews, Jordan Williams and so on running through the middle for the Tigers.
Initially he was slightly reserved in pre-bounce conversations but has begun to come out of his shell.
“In round one I was pretty timid, but as we’ve gone on and I’ve felt a little more confident in my tap-work I’ve become more vocal,
“They ( the on ballers) give it right back though, we hold each other to pretty high standards.”
Ruckwork is in the family of course, with Zac’s father Damian having played 215 AFL games for Collingwood and St Kilda, including the 1990 premiership with the Pies.
The now Hawthorn ruck coach is there to give his son advice when needed.
“Obviously having dad is a great help, it’d be silly not to listen to him,”
“A lot of his advice is about switching up your angles, especially if an opposition ruckman is getting on top of you, make yourself unpredictable.”
Monkhorst has also been a major beneficiary of new Tiger coach Jack Cole’s approach to the game, with the ex – Montmorency, Greensborough and Healesville tacticians focus on conditioning helping Monkhorst find more of the football, and the big sticks.
“Jack’s main focus over the pre-season was a lot of conditioning and putting in the work over pre-season has really helped my game personally,”
“(I’ve been) trying to get more running done and some more leg strength to help me jump again and spread better on the bigger grounds,”
“It’s always good to touch the footy, it keeps opposition ruckman accountable if I’m being used around the ground because they can’t just sit in the hole and be the spare back,”
“And (if they’re worried about me) that frees up space for our forwards to lead into.”
It’s not just Monkhorst who’s enjoying Cole’s approach to the game, with the Tigers relishing the 2016 (Yarra Ranges) Premiership coaches old fashioned ways.
“Everybody loves him.”
“He’s an old fashioned coach who will hit you between the eyes when you need to be told, there is no hesitation from him, but it’s all with love because he wants you to do better,”
“Everyone’s welcomed him with open arms and he’s been great for all of us so far, especially giving us a perspective of what other people think of Woori Yallock.”
“He’s set some standards, everyone loves him, it’s been great having him here.”