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Top Lion draftee bags Rising Star nomination

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17: Hugh McCluggage of the Lions during the 2017 AFL round 13 match between Port Adelaide Power and the Brisbane Lions at the Adelaide Oval on June 17, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by AFL Media)
Hugh McCluggage is the round 14 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination

ONE OF the key planks in the Brisbane Lions' future has urged fans and the football public alike to put faith in the club's direction.

There is a new positivity about the Lions since prized key forward Josh Schache re-signed last month in a landmark decision followed days later by a big win over Fremantle.

North Ballarat Rebels product Hugh McCluggage also became a major part of Brisbane's blueprint for success when the Lions selected him with the third pick of last year's NAB AFL Draft.

The 19-year-old is now responsible for creating even more hope after his best AFL game yet on Saturday saw him recognised as the round 14 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee.

McCluggage racked up 19 disposals, eight marks and nine score involvements to be one of the Lions' best players in the loss to Greater Western Sydney. 

He is enjoying life as a Lion so much he is considering joining Schache, fellow 2016 draftee Jarrod Berry, Harris Andrews and Daniel McStay in re-committing early to the club beyond next year. 

"I'm definitely thinking about that at the moment and it's awesome to see the likes of Schache, Jarrod and Dan McStay have re-signed," McCluggage said. 

"The list goes on, so it's definitely something I'm looking at. I'm loving the lifestyle up here and the direction the club's heading in and I couldn’t be happier.

"But I'm enjoying just going out and playing footy – for this year, anyway." 

 

McCluggage spent last season knowing he was in the mix to be the first player taken in the draft – an honour that went to Essendon's Andrew McGrath – and admitted the process took its toll at times.

But his performance never waned and some experts suggested his 2016 campaign was as good as any by a prospective pick. Those same people even likened McCluggage to Daniel Wells and Josh Kelly, comparisons the teenager is uncomfortable with but humbled by. 

"It's a massive year for boys in that situation; with school, with your footy – some weeks you're absolutely buggered," McCluggage said. 

"You get back to school and you don’t know where you're going to find an extra gear to knuckle down and do some work.

"But, footy wise, once you get into the system, everyone's in the same boat, whether it be the rookies or your top draft picks. 

"I guess, for Andy, the No.1 pick, that always carries a bit of a tag each and every year, so he's done very well to cope with that, but me, personally, it hasn't really had much of an impact." 

McCluggage, who hopes to develop into a full-time midfielder, has all the makings of a future leader, such is his on-field ability and maturity off it.

He is equally buoyant about what is on the Brisbane Lions' horizon, given a promising playing list that also includes round five Rising Star nominee Eric Hipwood. 

"All the young boys are on board, but we've still got that solid base of leaders that have been through it all and are really showing us the ropes and the way to go about it," he said. 

"So as much as there have been tough times – and there might be a few more – there are going to be a lot more ups than there will be downs in the next few years. 

"I'm extremely excited about it, and I think the fans should be, too." 

NAB AFL Rising Star hub: news, nominees and past winners

How does the Rising Star Award work and who is eligible?