If there were any doubts around how Melbourne would fare without Max Gawn, they’ve been officially quashed.
Luke Jackson starred for the Demons in the No. 1 ruck role in their 64-point smashing of Brisbane on Thursday night at the MCG, racking up a season-high 21 disposals to go with one goal, 18 hit-outs and a team-best nine tackles
What’s more 10 of his 21 disposals led to Melbourne scores including a stunning snap goal in the fourth quarter — a goal the 20-year old celebrated appropriately as the Dees charged home to reclaim top spot on the ladder.
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Jackson also went at 89 per cent efficiency by foot and finished with 10 contested possessions and six inside 50s.
The emerging ruckman told Channel 7 post-match he was thrilled to get the opportunity to take the ruck mantle with Gawn currently sidelined with a syndesmosis injury while crediting his skipper for being such an important mentor.
“It was good. I didn’t have much in my legs in that last quarter, but it was a good experience and had a lot of fun out there,” he said.
“He’s (Gawn) amazing. He helps every week with me and do a lot of craft sessions with him.”
The result saw the reigning premiers snap a three-game losing streak amid doubts over their season ahead of a tough run home.
Those doubts were heightened by the looming absence of Gawn after the star ruckman got struck down with injury in the club’s Queen’s Birthday loss to Collingwood prior to its bye.
Gawn flagged to Channel 7 post-match he could return as early as in next week’s clash with Adelaide.
But as gun defender Angus Brayshaw highlighted, the Dees ruck tandem of Jackson and Sam Weideman showed it was more than capable of shouldering the load.
“Luke Jackson played really well, so too did Sam Weideman. We could probably go another couple of weeks without the big fella (Gawn),” Brayshaw told Fox Footy post-match with a laugh.
“I think everyone’s having a laugh at his expense at the moment … ‘No Gawn, no Dees’ – that sort of narrative we’ve dispelled that one pretty quickly I would’ve thought.”
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin was also full of praise of Jackson’s performance.
“He‘s just a different ruckman to Max. Jacko’s ability to follow up at ground level and give us something there, it was very instrumental in the game,” he said.
“He tackled really well and you can just see the joy and excitement that he brings to our footy team when he is up and about. He kicks that goal and his celebration, it’s very infectious – and we love him.”
It comes amid crucial contract talks for Jackson, who’s out of contract at season’s end as the Western Australian clubs look to lure him home on big-money deals reportedly worth south of seven figures.
It’s believed Jackson could earn around $800,000-$900,000 on his next contract, with the Demons unlikely to match rival offers but still able to table a competitive deal.
Herald Sun journalist Jon Ralph reported on Fox Footy on Thursday night there were three offers in play for the former Pick 3: Melbourne, Fremantle and West Coast.
And despite interest from Victorian rivals, Ralph said Jackson’s call on his future decision will ultimately come down to staying a Demon or returning home.
“Crazy offers from Victorian clubs have come and they have been dispatched. None of those deals were $1 million (per season),” he said.
“Melbourne might be say $100,000 short a year, but that is not game-changing and that‘s not moving type of money.
“Jackson’s only decision right now is about winning flags at Melbourne or going home to a very tight-knit family. Money’s not even a consideration because he will be well compensated across his career. At Round 15, there is just literally no decision yet.”