THE dream of playing football on the biggest stage is set to come to head for four south-west stars vying for selection on an AFL list.
North Ballarat Rebels’ Hugh McCluggage, Willem Drew, Cedric Cox and Geelong Falcons big-man Sean Darcy – all of whom honed their craft in the Hampden league – have been selected in the 35-man squads for the prestigious AFL Under 18 All Stars game.
In its first year, the game will pit 45 of the country’s top draft prospects against one another for a final showcase in front of AFL recruiters.
McCluggage has been floated as a potential number one pick after taking out the TAC Cup’s league best-and-fairest, while Cox, Drew and Darcy are also expected to be picked up in October’s national draft.
McCluggage has averaged 29 disposals in a stellar season for North Ballarat, while also slotting 23 goals to enhance his draft stocks.
The 18-year-old will line up for the Chris Judd Under 18 side, while Cox, Drew and Darcy will play with the Michael O’Loughlin Under 18s in the clash.
“It’s an opportunity for AFL clubs to have another look at them and to see them play against the best in Australia,” North Ballarat Rebels talent manager Phil Partington said.
“But one game won’t make a difference to how recruiters look at them, because they’ve been playing consistent footy all year. “This is just the cherry on the cake, hopefully in front of a large crowd after the grand final parade.”
Partington said all three Rebels stars had developed “out of sight” since landing with the TAC Cup side.
He said their progress was evident on and off the field.
“They’ve all shown character and competitiveness this season. Hugh had next to no pre-season because of an injury, so he’s worked hard to get fit and to play on the ball all year. He’s had a very consistent year,” he said.
“Cedric has made a lot of sacrifices to move from Western Australia to Camperdown and has intergrated strongly into the footy club there and the community.
“Willem is another one who has just worked hard to get the best out of himself. He’s a very hard working character.
“This hasn’t happened overnight though, they’ve worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices to make the national (draft) combine.”
The game will be played at Punt Road Oval and will begin at 1.30pm on September 30.