VIC Country coach Paul Henriksen says highly-touted South Warrnambool teenager Hugh McCluggage deserves to be discussed as a potential number one draft pick.
The smooth-moving North Ballarat Rebels midfielder was named Vic Country’s most valuable player and 19th man on Wednesday night for his impressive performances at the AFL under 18 national championships.
“I would definitely say he is a top-10 draft pick,” Henriksen said.
“(Carlton key defender) Jacob Weitering was always touted as the number throughout the whole of last year and you don’t see that this year, there is no absolute number one pick.
“Is Hugh going to be number one? He’s probably one of four, five or six players in the conversation.
“He’s definitely come with a rocket – the players he’s been mentioned around have been in the mix for three years.”
McCluggage was named in the winless Vic Country’s best in three of its four games at the carnival, with his skill, poise and goal kicking nous propelling him up draft predictions.
“For a player who hasn’t been in the talented pathway program for long time, his development in a year has been as quick as I’ve seen,” the Terang-based Henriksen said.
“To not just play solid footy, but exceptional footy – I’ve never seen a player do that so quickly.
“He’s very level-headed. He plays like he is off the field – poised and composed.”
Fellow south-west draft contenders – Koroit pair Jarrod Korewha and Willem Drew and Cobden ruckman Sean Darcy – played alongside McCluggage in Vic Country’s four-point final-round loss to The Allies at Simonds Stadium on Wednesday. Henriksen said that trio was impressive.
“Jarrod had 19 possessions off half-back, took a few marks and we thought it was his best game of the carnival,” he said.
“He had to play a key defensive role and, to be honest, at that level he’s not big enough. He should be taking the third or fourth tall but our lack of defenders meant he had to take the first or second key forward.”
Henriksen said Darcy, a strong-bodied 200-centimetre ruckman, was a “very, very smart player”.
“He knows where to position himself and set up,” he said.
“He’s going to have to work on his running capacity and ability to get around the ground, but he knows that.”