His new teammates have already nicknamed him ‘Bags’ but draftee Hugh McCluggage won’t be packing his anytime soon, declaring he’s in for the long haul with the Brisbane Lions.
Described by many recruiters as the best natural footballer in this year’s draft, midfielder McCluggage trained with the Lions for the first time on Wednesday in scorching 30 degree heat at Yeronga.
A projected No.1 pick, the Warrnambool product was snared with Brisbane’s third selection and in a shrewd move by the club, already finds himself surrounded by familiar faces.
McCluggage is good mates with three of the Lions’ other draft picks, Jarrod Berry, Alex Witherden and Cedric Cox.
Berry and McCluggage boarded together in high school for the last two years and both played for the North Ballarat Rebels and for Vic Country.
Cox joined them at the Rebels halfway through this year, while McCluggage has played on Witherden in the TAC Cup and alongside him in representative footy.
It’s a deliberate strategy from the Lions in response to struggles with player retention over the last few years.
McCluggage said he was “pumped” when he found out who’d be joining him up north.
“It’s pretty amazing. I couldn’t have really done any better, to be honest,” McCluggage said.
“It was pretty low odds but I’m really glad it’s happened, I get to come up here with my best mates.
“We’re living with Harris Andrews, he’s got a nice house. It’ll be good.”
McCluggage, considered a strong chance of playing AFL football from round one next year, said he was convinced Brisbane’s worst days were behind them.
“From what I’ve heard, they’re on the up,” he said.
“I liked the coach and all the staff I met with, and obviously further on in the draft I found out I was going with a few mates from back home as well, which made it even better.
“I can’t really speak for how the boys found it the last few years, but I guess it is a good feel around here from what I’ve seen in the first few days.”