Having missed the chance to seal Brisbane’s breakthrough win over Richmond a quarter earlier, Lions star Hugh McCluggage wasn’t about to make the same mistake again in the dying stages of his team’s qualifying final win at the Gabba.
Haunted by goalkicking inaccuracy all season, McCluggage, who had kicked 7.21 for the season to that point, squandered a gift in front of goal in the third quarter as the Lions looked to shake a finals hoodoo and there were fears that it could come back to bite them.
But with the game in the balance in the final term, the 22-year-old wingman delivered with a snap for goal which sealed Brisbane a preliminary final berth and put the Lions one win away from a historic home Grand Final appearance.
“It was exciting – a fair bit of relief swept over me when I kicked that one,” McCluggage said.
“I’d obviously missed one a bit earlier that I would have liked to kick, but was nice to be able to kick the sealer and move on to another week of finals.”
What an eventful weekend for the Rich family! 😍
Congratulations to Dan and Lauren on the birth of their daughter, Indiana Grace Rich 👏🎉 pic.twitter.com/bJX11Fivix
— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) October 4, 2020
McCluggage had been desperate for a shot at redemption after his earlier miss.
“We’ve done a lot of work on mindset and being able to move on when you make mistakes,” he said.
“That held me in good stead. I tried to just forget about it straight away.
“I’ve always been someone that likes to get forward and have shots at goal.
“You can’t shy away from it, even if you’re not kicking goals. I know that it’ll turn eventually.”
McCluggage’s goal not only buried personal demons but also helped the Lions’ end their 11-year losing streak against Richmond, and made up for the previous year’s qualifying final loss to the same opposition.
“We knew we’d knocked off a lot of sides that we hadn’t beaten for a long time and they (Richmond) were another one we wanted to tick off,” he said.
“It hangs over your head a little bit, and we hadn’t won a final for quite some time either, so to tick those two off I think it means we can play with an open mind now.
“When you haven’t won a final it can start getting in your head. It was only two finals we had last year, but it gives us massive confidence going ahead that we can match it with anyone.”
The Lions won’t shy away from their premiership ambitions either, knowing a preliminary final victory over either Geelong or Collingwood next week will put them in to the October 24 Grand Final at the Gabba.
“You’ve got to dream,” McCluggage said.
“We’ve thought about going all the way. It’d be silly to shy away from that but … we’re not looking forward to anything further than the game that’s ahead of us.
“That’s what we did for the Richmond game and that’s what we’re going to do for the next game whoever we end up playing.”