TAC Cup 2016 Morrish Medal preview

VC - Hugh McCluggage

CAN anyone beat Hugh McCluggage? That will be the question on everyone’s minds entering Morrish Medal night tonight.

In past years, the Morrish Medal has been as easy to predict a winner as guessing who Australia’s prime minister will be in a few years. Basically, it is usually a Melbourne Cup field on offer to take out the TAC Cup’s most prestigious honour. But in 2016, a Black Caviar has emerged, seemingly head and shoulders above rivals in what has been a sensational second half of the season.

Usually the Morrish Medal winner will often come from a player unlucky to have missed out on the Under 18s National Championships, and almost always AFL AIS Academy players never feature simply because of their extra commitments between state and academy matches. But this year, the consensus, certainly from us here at AFL Draft Central, is that North Ballarat Rebel Hugh McCluggage will be wearing the Morrish Medal at the end of the night.

McCluggage has played 10 matches, and in my Morrish Medal predictor, he polls in nine of them, to amass 25 votes. In all of his matches he is named in the top three players for the Rebels, and in his last five matches would be stiff to not collect at least four best on grounds, and possibly a fifth. If Patrick Dangerfield seems like a safe bet to take home ‘Charlie’ in the AFL, McCluggage is even more so to do the same with the Morrish.

In this preview, we’ll look at McCluggage and then a series of other contenders and see if it’s possible for the slick moving midfielder to be beaten.

Hugh McCluggage (North Ballarat Rebels)

The likely number one pick has had an unbelievable finish to the season and is in scintillating form. He racks up disposals at will, rarely wastes one, and kicks goals like a forward. McCluggage is rightfully favourite for the award and unless the likes of Willem Drew, Jarrod Berry or James Gow take enough votes off him, it is truly difficult to not see him win. If there were odds on the award, he would be the shortest price favourite in a long time.

The other contenders:

James Cousins (Murray Bushrangers)

Cousins has quietly been going about his business for the Bushrangers, racking up big numbers and kicking goals. He works hard defensively and lays tackles, as well as covers ground well to win the ball across the field.

Cousins has played a total of 15 matches, which gives him a five-game headstart on McCluggage. In those games he has amassed an average of 24.3 disposals, 4.7 marks and 4.7 tackles, but will have plenty of competition for the votes with the likes of Lachlan Tiziani, Ben Paton, Louis Pinnuck and Jake Page all playing plenty of good football through the midfield.

For Cousins to win it, he would need the umpires to see him as the standout midfielder in each of his games where he is likely to get votes and try and pick up a few more three votes rather than one or two votes. I have him picking up five best on grounds, but only one other vote, which means there are nine games where he does not poll in my predictor, leaving plenty of chances if the umpires think differently.

Jack Higgins (Oakleigh Chargers)

Jack Higgins is a bottom-ager likely to go first round in 2017. A midfielder/forward, I have Higgins racking up five best on grounds and one other vote, exactly the same as Cousins. The only difference is, Higgins simply has not played enough games to have the same hope Cousins has with collecting votes in other matches.

Due to school football, Higgins has played just seven matches, and I have given him votes in six of them. Of a possible 21 votes, I awarded him 16, which even if he got 21, would still be less than my prediction of 25 for McCluggage.

James Worpel (Geelong Falcons)

Another bottom-ager, James Worpel is someone who could surprise with a podium finish, having played a solid amount of games, and stands out with his contested winning style, quick acceleration and scoreboard impact.

Worpel is a player who is likely to go first round next season and in 13 games, I have him polling 15 votes, including four best on grounds and another two games where he received votes.

Much like Cousins however, Worpel does have some competition to steal votes off him, with Jack Henry, Jack Blood, Max Augerinos and Cassidy Parish among the potential vote getters.

Myles Poholke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Myles Poholke is my smoky in this count. Mainly because he is a player likely to be noticed in the Dandenong midfield, with the Stingrays winning plenty of games to attract votes.

He was a pretty consistent player across the year, and I have him polling 13 votes, including three best on grounds.

It will be interesting to see how the umpires view the Stingrays’ games, because the side is a lower ball winning side compared to others, and often their top players could have 12-15 touches.

Poholke will have a number of threats, including Sam Fowler, who is another smoky for the award, and Josh Battle.

Andrew McGrath (Sandringham Dragons)

McGrath will not win the Morrish Medal, but he will get close. The reason he will not win it is simply because he has not played enough games due to all of his commitments, including state and school football.

In 2016, he has played just six games, but has starred in nearly all of them, averaging 32.8 disposals, six marks and 5.8 tackles.

Of his six matches, I have him best on ground in four of them, and eventually polling 13 votes.

The only hope he would have of winning is if McCluggage’s teammates steal votes off him and he polls best on ground in nearly all his matches.

Keep an eye on:

Willem Drew (North Ballarat Rebels)

Sam Fowler (Dandenong Stingrays)

Dylan Clarke (Eastern Ranges)

James Gow (North Ballarat Rebels)

Lachie Walker (Oakleigh Chargers)

Brodie Romensky (Western Jets)


AFL Draft Central predictions:

Peter Williams:

Winner: Hugh McCluggage (NBR)

Runner-up: James Cousins (MB)

Third: James Worpel (GF)

Smoky: Myles Poholke (DS)

Matt Balmer:

Winner: Hugh McCluggage (NBR)

Runner-up: Brodie Romensky (WJ)

Third: Sam Fowler (DS)

Smoky: Lachlan Walker (OC)

Duncan Robertson:

Winner: Hugh McCluggage (NBR)

Runner-up: Kade Renooy (OC)

Third: Brodie Romensky (WJ)

Smoky: Josh Begley (ER)

Josh Poulter:

Winner: Hugh McCluggage (NBR)

Runner-up: Brodie Romensky (WJ)

Third: Ben Ronke (CC)

TAC Cup Team of the Year:


I have a selected a team of who I believe are the best 24 players (plus three emergencies) that would be in the mix for the 2016 Team of the Year. It was a very hard decision, particularly in the midfield with so many stars that could have earned spots. They tend to only have one or two bottom-agers in the team of the year, and I think James Worpel is a monty to get in, while Jack Higgins is a chance as well. A number of Dandenong bottom-agers such as Hunter Clark could push for selection, but I think they will opt for top-age team-mate Reece Piper. I expect at least 19 of the 23 eligible starters to be drafted, while the positions could be different.

I acknowledge Worpel could probably swap with Oscar Junker to play on that half-forward flank, while perhaps Josh Begley might even make it onto the field. The key defensive posts are always tough, but Jack Maibaum was All-Australian and I expect him to get the nod, while Zac Guthrie has been consistent throughout the year, but will be battling Ryan Carter (Western) and Ryan Garthwaite (Murray) for the spot. Much like the All-Australian team, there are a number of midfielders on flanks because they spend time in those areas, but if the forwards or backs are good enough, then they will get in. One player that could get in that I have overlooked in Lachlan Tiziani who probably deserves the nod, but think Kirby and Begley were ahead of him on form and they it is not like Ainsworth and Poholke won’t be selected.

It is not an easy job, and I would not be surprised to see Josh Battle slide into a forward spot instead of McLean, but given McLean has had more output given he has played the full season, I have chosen him for centre half forward, with leading goal kicker Karl Brown at full forward.

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