Over the course of the season, Brisbane have been lauded for what is fast becoming a star-studded midfield. Despite the loss of Dayne Beams, Brisbane still boast the likes of Lachie Neale and Dayne Zorko in the engine room, as they set themselves for a genuine crack at the top four. One midfield does deserve some praise, among his teammates.
Hugh McCluggage has slowly but surely fashioned himself into a reliable and handy midfield for Brisbane, since his debut in 2017. The young midfielder impressed with his ability to win the ball and use it well, despite his relatively young age of just 21 years old. In 2018 he was trusted with playing in all 22 games, showing out with averages of 19 disposals, 11 kicks at 70%, growing into his new role.
It is this season where he is cementing himself as a trusted ball-winner for the Lions, having notched himself career bests across the board. At the time of writing, McCluggage is averaging 22 disposals, 8 contested, 14 kicks, 4 inside 50s, and a goal a game, as Brisbane are surging for a big finish come the end of the season.
McCluggage showed his worth in Round 15 against Melbourne, in a tough win at the Gabba. Against the Demons, he nabbed 23 touches, 11 of them contested, 6 tackles and 6 clearances, doing it against a team that typically dominates the hard-ball. While he is normally a classy midfielder, McCluggage showed his energy and toughness against Melbourne, as his work-rate helped nullify a team that was looking to get its season back on track.
Now as the Lions are pushing for their first Finals birth in nearly a decade, young guns like McCluggage will be called upon to step up and carry them home, and to shoulder the burden off of established veterans such as Neale and Zorko. If McCluggage keeps this up for the remainder of the season, then Brisbane will be in no doubt for September, as he goes from strength to strength.
An honourable mention has to be reserved for North Melbourne’s Jy Simpkin, whom since his switch into the midfield by new coach Rhyce Shaw, has improved dramatically. Against the Pies, he notched 30 disposals, 17 contested, 11 clearances all at 83% efficiency, as he proved a menace all night.