HE’S been touted as a potential number one draft pick and Hugh McCluggage now has another accolade to add to his already sparkling credentials.
McCluggage, a product of South Warrnambool’s junior program, became the first south-west export since North Melbourne and Sydney Swans champion Wayne Schwass to take out the TAC Cup’s Morrish Medal.
He became the first North Ballarat Rebel in history to win the prestigious medal, polling 16 votes to jump clear of Dandenong’s Dan Allsop and Gippsland’s Callan McKeon.
The 18-year-old said he was “honoured” to take out the award as the league’s best player.
“It was definitely a surprise because we have such a high standard of midfielders and players at North Ballarat. It’s very surreal and it’s a massive honour to get the award,” he told The Standard.
It was a surprise because we have such a high standard of midfielders at North Ballarat. It’s surreal and an honour to get the award.Hugh McCluggage
“I wanted to improve as a footballer and a bit as a person as well. I wanted to make good relationships with the people involved at the club – I thought that would go a long way.
“Not only myself but the team have seen that a bit throughout the year and hopefully we can continue that. We’ve finished top four so now we’ll see where we go.”
In a rapid rise through the under 18 competition, McCluggage averaged 29 disposals as well as booting 23 goals from just 10 games.
He delivered four best-on-ground performances, including a 36 disposal and five goal effort against the Bendigo Pioneers in round five of the TAC Cup.
Playing in a side jam packed of south-west talent, McCluggage said he found it easier sharing the field with talent such as Willem Drew, Shannon Beks, James Gow and Charlie Lee.
“It’s been good to have Drewy running around in the middle and I’m pretty good mates with him at school. It’s good to have Charlie down back and Beksy up front, there’s a few of us from South Warrnambool out there,” he said.
“There’s pretty much five or six in there that I’ve grown up playing with or against. It’s good playing the last of your junior footy with mates.”
McCluggage was also selected for the TAC Cup team-of-the-year, in the ruck-rover position, while Willem Drew was selected on the wing.
The Morrish Medal added to a stellar year for McCluggage, as he was also awarded Vic Country’s MVP and received All Australian honours earlier in the season.
McCluggage said while the transition to senior football was exciting, it was bittersweet to leave the Rebels setup.
“Who knows where you’ll be next year? That’s footy if you’re lucky enough to get drafted,” he said.
“It’s sad that your junior footy is coming to an end, but I’ll definitely look to keep good relationships with all the people I’ve met and played with here.”