HUGH McCluggage’s poise. Willem Drew’s consistency. Sean Darcy’s aggression. Jarrod Korewha’s professionalism.
These are the south-west draft contenders’ standout traits outgoing Vic Country coach Paul Henriksen witnessed first-hand throughout the AFL under 18 national championships.
The Terang teacher, preparing to move north to begin life as a Brisbane Lions development coach, believes the Hampden league quartet have what it takes to play at the elite level.
They are among nine players with links to the Hampden league considered national or rookie draft chances.
Rowan Marshall (Portland) and Sam McLachlan (North Warrnambool Eagles) are mature-age VFL prospects in the hunt.
Jamaine Jones (Portland), Dion Johnstone (North Warrnambool Eagles) and Cedric Cox (Camperdown) are TAC Cup graduates hoping to make the grade.
Henriksen expects South Warrnambool export McCluggage to be among the first picked at Friday’s national draft in Sydney.
“Hugh’s had an unbelievable rises in AFL ranks in the last 12 months,” he said.
“Probably before that he was hampered a lot by injuries. He’s always had a lot of talent but I think this year, every step that he’s taken he’s shown what he’s capable of.”
Henriksen said McCluggage’s temperament was one of his biggest attributes.
“He’s just so cool and calm in any situation, doesn’t seem to get flustered,” he said.
“In team meetings he really is like a sponge, he sucks up all that information.”
Henriksen believes three-time Koroit premiership player Drew is reliable – a ball winner who is always one step ahead of his opponent.
”He really finished off strongly, and to have three senior premierships under your belt before you’ve even started your senior career, I think AFL clubs would enjoy seeing that,” he said.
Cobden export Darcy is among the top ruckmen in the draft pool and, at 204cm and 115kg, is physically ready to play at the top level.
“I think his aggression at the contest is a real attribute for Sean,” Henriksen said.
“Being a left-handed ruckman, I think is something that is a little bit unusual, so I think AFL clubs would look at that, and his second efforts when the ball hits the ground are outstanding.”
Korewha, another from the Koroit football factory, is a player with upside.
“I think that he’s turning heads as someone who can run and carry and be an attacking back and hopefully he gets heavily looked at because in the end he was really important for us during the carnival,” Henriksen said.