Will I get drafted? Where will I go? Will I have to move? These are questions that would be racing through potential draftees heads, with the 2017 AFL Draft just over a week away.
Brisbane Lions’ Hugh McCluggage can identify, as he was in their shoes this time last year.
“You don’t really know where you’re going to go. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking time,” he told lions.com.au.
McCluggage, a dairy famer’s son from Warrnambool, country Victoria, always dreamed of playing AFL.
“You always go to the games and stuff and watch the players and look up to them,” McCluggage said.
“But I guess as you figure out how hard it actually is, coming up through the TAC Cup and that sort of thing, it might dwindle a little bit and you might second guess yourself.”
But McCluggage’s laid-back attitude assisted him in his ambition and helped relinquish the pressure.
While boarding at Clarendon College, he played for the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup, with Club scouts often coming to watch his games. Bear in mind, this was all while trying to pass exams in his final year of school.
“It is hard for some boys to do that but I was pretty cruisy and just took it all in my stride. And try to just accept whatever happens,” McCluggage said.
The AFL Combine was his final hurdle before draft night. He was one of 60 players undergoing physical and mental tests in front of club scouts, list managers and coaches from across the country.
It was during Combine that McCluggage met with Senior Coach Chris Fagan and General Manager of Football David Noble for the first time.
“They asked me to tell them sort of what I think I’d bring the Club. They also told me what direction they saw the Club heading in, which I found really interesting.”
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After the interview it was an anxious wait until draft night, just weeks later.
“Draft night is a pretty surreal sort of thing. I don’t think you’d ever get used to it,” McCluggage said.
“You go into it with that unknown of where are you going to end up.”
Luckily, McCluggage didn’t have to wait long to be put out of his misery. He was announced as the Lions’ number 3 pick, with Fagan proudly presenting him his new guernsey on stage.
“When your name does get called up, it’s one of the best feelings in the world,” McCluggage said.
“I had no idea where I was going to end up. Once it’s all over it’s a bit of a relief, that’s for sure.”
His night only improved when best mate, Jarrod Berry, was taken with the Lions’ 17th pick.
“I saw his name and couldn’t believe it. I sort of in a bit of shock I reckon. It couldn’t have fallen any better,” McCluggage said.
“I couldn’t have been happier that it actually happened.”
His favourite part of the night was celebrating with family and going out for dinner with his new Club.
“I enjoyed the part after it where you get to meet the Brisbane Lions staff and I met him out the back. You feel like you know a bit more at that stage rather than all that uncertainty.”
McCluggage had never been to Brisbane before he was forced to move his whole life there.
“I was looking forward to change. I’ve heard it’s a pretty relaxed city. Obviously, I’m from the country and a smaller town and that really appealed to me,” he said.
“When you’ve got your best mate, it makes it a whole lot easier, the transition.
“I’ve loved it, love Brisbane as a city and you know really enjoyed the move up here and the lifestyle and couldn’t imagine myself going anywhere else now.”
In Round 3 against St Kilda, he shared the biggest moment of his career, alongside his best mate.
“Getting to make my debut with Jarrod was awesome,” McCluggage said.
“That first game was a little bit like draft night, you don’t remember too much of it. It was a really surreal experience.”
Source: Brisbane Lions website