Dawson Simpson of the Cats competes with Brodie Grundy of the Magpies during the NAB challenge match between the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies.
Dawson Simpson of the Cats competes with Brodie Grundy of the Magpies during the NAB challenge match between the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies. AAP Image - Mark Dadswell

Collingwood’s next big thing set for giant challenge

HARD to believe there was actually a time when Brodie Grundy was flattened by an opposition player so badly in a junior game he gave footy away for several years to concentrate on basketball.

The South Australian would later grow into a beast of a kid who was bench-pressing 130kg by the time he was 18 - and hungry for the battle you could only find in a true contact sport.

Such was his strength out on the field, he easily outbustled fellow youngsters such as 'big' Joe Daniher when dominating in the national under-18 championships in 2012.

Still a month shy of his 20th birthday, the teenage 'man mountain' now at Collingwood will take on 120kg tonight - in the form of Fremantle giant Aaron Sandilands, in tonight's 2014 season opener at Etihad Stadium.

Despite the lighter load, it will be a much tougher challenge than anything he has confronted in the weights room.

Sandilands, though having just turned 31, looks well poised to reclaim the title of most imposing ruckman in the game, as he was when named All-Australian jumpers in 2008, '09 and '10.

The 211cm Docker was restricted to just 10 games in 2013, after he ripped a hamstring off the bone in March and then suffered a fractured cheekbone late in the season.

Fully recovered, he has been the form big man of this pre-season, eclipsing current All Australian ruckman Will Minson from the Bulldogs in a recent practice match.

But in Grundy the Magpies clearly trust. So much so, that after just six senior games, they backed the kid with the pony tail in as their No.1 ruckman for the elimination final against Port Adelaide, ahead of 2010 premiership player Darren Jolly.

And then while in 8negotiations at the end of last season to extend Grundy's contract, were also informing Jolly he was to be cut loose entirely.

The 200-game veteran didn't take the news too kindly, calling Magpies coach Nathan Buckley "a coward".

The wraps on Grundy are as big as his 202cm/102kg frame, and he seems the obvious choice to rival West Coast's Nic Naitanui and Brisbane's Matthew Leuenberger as the game's best ruckman over the next decade.

And if there's one to beat Gold Coast's Jack Martin for this year's Rising Star award it might be Grundy, with a player needing to have played less than 11 games and being aged under 21 entering the season to qualify.

Grundy's aggressive nature shone out from the moment he made his debut last season.

He recorded a team-high seven tackles against GWS in his second game, and 13 contested disposals to go with his 28 hitouts against eventual premier Hawthorn in his third.

Grundy has never been one to be overawed by the moment, and certainly wasn't when being quizzed by Giants recruiting staff, including AFL legend Steve Silvagni during the 2012 draft camp, famously firing back at them, "Why would I want to come to a club that's only been around for one year?"

While he may have to look up to Sandilands he will certainly be up for the fight.