Player focus: Will Brodie & Hugh McCluggage

Hugh McCluggage
Hugh McCluggage at three-quarter time

Vic Country may be 0-2 in the Under 18 championships currently, but Matt Balmer believes they may hold two of the first Victorian prospects come November’s draft.

At this stage in my mind it’s a coin toss. Heads or tails? Will Brodie or Hugh McCluggage? It’s the question that recruiting staff right across Australia may have to decide. Both have begun the season in remarkable ways, with Brodie dominating against two VFL opponents for the AFL Academy whilst McCluggage has been a consistent performer at TAC Cup level.

Do you take the inside contested bull or the composed smooth moving midfielder that can hit the scoreboard?

U18s- Metro win thriller over arch rivals Vic Country- Read more here. 

Players in focus:

Will Brodie
Inside Midfielder (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
23/08/1998 | 189cm | 82kg

Will Brodie collects one of his 29 disposals on Monday. (Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Will Brodie collects one of his 29 disposals on Monday. (Photo: Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Despite the extra strapping on his knee after an incident early last weekend against Western Australia, Will Brodie begun Monday’s contest in the centre of the ground. The return of 201cm, 113kg ruckman Sean Darcy also gave Country a key advantage in the middle of the ground.

Brodie begun with four disposals in the opening seven minutes, including an assist dishing off a handball to McCluggage who kicked truly. Brodie himself collected a number of clearances, able to read the taps well off ruckman Darcy. Brodie chose to often clear the ball by hand finding a teammate who then propelled the ball forward. Brodie had five handballs in the opening quarter and his quick hands is one of his strengths.

Despite the signs of Brodie not covering the ground as well as he would normally, he still threw his body around at the contest. He tackles hard and follows up hunting the ball back when his opposition has the ball.

Brodie isn’t an overly strong kick of the football, but managed to spot up Myles Poholke and Ben Ainsworth inside 50 in the opening quarter. His kicking on Monday was more pinpoint and effective than usual and when Country was on top he simply dominated to be one of their best for the day.

Brodie too has enough of a burst to break away from the stoppage, but usually has the smarts to use his good vision and dish the ball off to a teammate in a better position or use his good vision to spot a player ahead of him. The disappointing sign on Monday was the fact he didn’t record a stat in the final six minutes of the clash when the game was on the line with Country needing him to put a stamp on the contest.

The contested bull will be someone for clubs to look closely at- His 29 disposals & seven clearance effort against Metro was superb to complement both his AFL Academy matches against bigger VFL opponents earlier in the year, with 20+ disposals in each of them.

Hugh McCluggage
Outside Midfielder (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
03/03/1998 | 185cm | 75kg

Hugh McCluggage at Simonds Stadium on Monday. (Photo: Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Hugh McCluggage at Simonds Stadium on Monday. (Photo: Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Smooth moving midfielder Hugh McCluggage joined Brodie in the centre square at the first bounce. McCluggage ran hard early getting on a chain of handballs and received the ball from Brodie to slot his first of three goals for the contest on the run from 50m out.

Despite not being an overly big contested ball winner, McCluggage manages to work his light frame into the contest and control the play. His composure in traffic almost makes it appear as if time is standing still, where he can kick the ball ahead or find a free teammate to handball the ball to.

His second opening quarter goal came from deep in the pocket on the run, putting the drop punt through the middle of the goals in one of the goals of the day.

By foot, McCluggage is solid and doesn’t waste too many disposals. He was at his best when Country dictated the game and when he slotted his third goal for the day in the third quarter it seemed like the match was almost over.

Similar to Brodie when Metro fought back in the midfield, McCluggage and the other midfielders struggled to get their hand on the ball. McCluggage did however finish the match with 25 disposals with a consistent effort throughout the day.

Overall, I thought both Brodie and McCluggage were the two best for Country on Monday. At this stage, I would be amazed if either didn’t end up in the top 10 on draft night and I’m looking forward to see how they finish off the championships, hopefully gaining All-Australian status at Under 18 level.

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