Hugh McCluggage of the North Ballarat Rebels celebrates a goal during a TAC Cup match.
Hugh McCluggage of the North Ballarat Rebels celebrates a goal during a TAC Cup match. Jack Thomas/AFL Media

Bombers keep rivals in dark over No.1 pick

AFL: Essendon has made up its mind, but the rest of us are left wondering who the Bombers will pick with the coveted No.1 selection in tonight's national draft in Sydney.

Unlike most other years, there has been no definitive frontrunner, with Warrnambool product Hugh McCluggage and Canadian-born Andy McGrath laying claims to being the best young player in the game.

The Bombers, who received the top pick on the back of their bottom-place finish in 2016, will surely take one of the smooth-moving midfielders.

"Out of respect for the game it'll be kept in-house. We won't be declaring who we're taking,” list manager Adrian Dodoro told News Corp. "Only the list management team at the football club know the direction we're heading, and it won't be escaping that.

"The decision is really tight, it really is.”

Either way it promises to be a fascinating draft with both Queensland clubs right in the thick of the early action, having eight selections in the first 22, with Gold Coast having picks four, six, eight and 10, and the Lions three, 16, 21 and 22.

With the Giants holding pick No.2, they will swoop on whichever one of McGrath and McCluggage (pictured) the Bombers don't name.

Things will get complicated if Essendon makes a bid for GWS academy player Will Setterfield with its No.1 selection, forcing the Giants to hand over No.2 for him.

If that was to eventuate, the Lions would be rubbing their hands together before grabbing one of McGrath or McCluggage.

Barring that scenario, the Lions look certain to obtain the services of the highly rated forward Ben Ainsworth.

The Victorian has already said he would be happy to head north and play under new coach Chris Fagan.

"Getting an opportunity to play at the highest level is definitely the thing that comes to my mind, and that's why I did say I'd like to go to Brisbane,” he said.

"I think they're developing a pretty good culture at Brisbane and I think there's good things ahead for the club.”

The Lions are also expected to take yet another of their academy products, Jacob Allison, while Jack Bowes is destined for the Suns after spending five years in their academy.


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