TWO footballers who have lined up for South Warrnambool are striving to make their AFL debuts in 2021.
Reigning number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan's first game for the Western Bulldogs will be a much-hyped affair.
Second-year Collingwood midfielder Jay Rantall is likely to play with a spotlight on rather than glaring.
Both players will have interest from those inside the Roosters' walls.
Rantall, a former Australian junior basketballer, made his Hampden league senior debut for South Warrnambool in 2018.
Twelve months later, after committing to football, he landed at the Magpies via pick 40. He spent his first season at the club playing practice matches across the country as coronavirus forced the AFL to think on its feet and send teams into interstate hubs.
Ugle-Hagan didn't play at all in 2020. NAB League was cancelled.
But it didn't stop astute judges rating the Framlingham-raised teenager as the top pick in Australia.
Adelaide bid on him but the Western Bulldogs, who had first dibs as part of their Next Generation Academy, matched and welcomed Ugle-Hagan to the kennel in December.
Rantall and Ugle-Hagan, who also played for East Warrnambool, will be hoping their careers follow a similar trajectory to fellow South Warrnambool alumni Hugh McCluggage.
McCluggage is one of the league's premier wingmen and made the initial 40-player All-Australian squad last season.
He is considered one of the keys to Brisbane's premiership chances.
South Warrnambool president Steve Harris said the club was proud of its players' efforts.
"We're just really excited for them," he said.
"They grow up as kids having that AFL dream and for us to help facilitate that in some small way is really exciting.
"It is also the flow-on effect for our kids - they can say 'I am playing football in the same structure and on the same ground and rooms that those kids who are now playing in the big league came through'."
Harris said McCluggage had "the potential to go to the next level".
"He's bedded down his contract again which means he doesn't have to worry about that and built on his fitness, is a bit more mature and has got more games under his belt," he said.
"We certainly think he's capable of an exciting, long career in the AFL."
Harris said Rantall needed an opportunity to get an initial break in the Magpies' side while Ugle-Hagan would handle the hype.
"Jamarra's got a good head on his shoulders, he's well grounded," he said.
"He is still developing as well. There is no question we'll see the best of Jamarra in the years to come and it certainly won't be this year or next year."
The South Warrnambool trio is part of a 17-strong Hampden league contingent, which includes coaches Leon Cameron (GWS Giants) and Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide) in the AFL in 2021.
Two players - North Melbourne's Ben Cunnington (Cobden) and Port Adelaide's Willem Drew (Koroit) - will help boost their respective sides' midfields.
Cunnington, a regular in his first 10 seasons, was restricted to three matches in 2020 with a back complaint.
Drew, who has played 10 matches in three seasons, was sidelined with a foot issue.
A fit Cunnington will add experience to a youthful Roos' line-up while Drew, who collected 22 disposals in the Power's pre-season match, has developed into an inside midfielder who can complement their outside runners.
Injury hurt Portland's Jamaine Jones in his first season with West Coast too.
A hamstring strain ended his year prematurely after two matches for the Eagles.
The club could use the small forward in spurts in the midfield in 2021.
Another small forward, Sydney's Lewis Taylor, is another recovering from surgery.
The Terang Mortlake talent broke his foot in the final game last season and is now working to force his way back into the Swans' best 22.
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