FROM the moment Brisbane landed Hugh McCluggage in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, it thought it had struck gold.
The Lions originally had pick No.2 but bundled it with some lower selections to slide back a spot as Greater Western Sydney pounced on Tim Taranto.
The Lions also received pick No.16, which allowed them to snap up Jarrod Berry, one of McCluggage's best mates.
McCluggage, the smooth-moving wingman who is right in the thick of Brownlow Medal contention, has long been at the centre of the greatest debate of that draft – who of the first three players chosen should have been taken with the first pick?
No.1 selection Andy McGrath, Taranto and McCluggage each have their supporters.
However, is one of that trio even the best player from the draft?
Taranto and McCluggage get another chance to press their claims when they square off at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon, with both to play heavy onball minutes in the top-eight Lions-Giants clash.
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With four-plus years of 20/20 hindsight to guide us, how should we look at the top end of that draft? It would be wrong to start anywhere but the top three.
McGrath has played 88 games, won the NAB AFL Rising Star award in 2017 and progressed nicely in a move from half-back to the midfield.
He has all the skills, and leadership qualities, to drive the Essendon engine room for many years to come.
Taranto has played 84 games and been an integral member of the Greater Western Sydney midfield since day one, winning its best and fairest in 2019 – the year the Giants made the Grand Final.
McCluggage has steadily improved each year.
He has played 92 games and made the All-Australian squad of 40 the past two seasons, finishing third in Brisbane's best and fairest in 2019 and 2020 as the Lions surged into finals.
McGrath is a zippy ball-winner who can dart in and out of traffic, Taranto a contested beast, and McCluggage an elite kick who can win his own ball and create havoc forward of centre.
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None of their clubs would be remotely disappointed with their selection, which brings us to the question of whether someone else could retrospectively muscle their way into the top three.
Could the best player have been chosen at No.29?
Richmond's selection – and development - of Shai Bolton can't be overlooked.
Of every player in the draft, Bolton has racked up more Brownlow Medal votes (14) than anyone.
That's some effort for a player who is alongside 'Charlie' winners Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin and shares time with Dion Prestia, Shane Edwards and others in the midfield after starting as a half-forward.
Bolton also has two premiership medals to his name.
Not only does his resume stack up, but so does his damaging style of play. Bolton plays inside and out, and knowing what we do now, would surely be a top-five selection in a redraft.
The other name who would have vaulted up the list is Tom Stewart – originally taken with pick No.40.
Drafted at the age of 23, the former carpenter has two All-Australian jackets, combining terrific lockdown defence with rebound that has to be accounted for by opponents.
Although his career will likely be shorter than many of the men chosen before him – and medium-sized defenders aren't always highest on the priority list – what Stewart has achieved in 96 games is incredible.
On the whole the 2016 draft class is still emerging, but the top three remain the cream.
Other names who have outperformed their selections include Essendon best and fairest winner Jordan Ridley (pick No.22) and Fremantle's intercept defender Luke Ryan (66), while Todd Marshall (16) and Tim English (19) still look capable of ascending to be among the competition's best forwards in years to come.