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How Hugh McCluggage blocked out the negatives to kick the sealing goal for Brisbane Lions

Brisbane star Hugh McCluggage has declared his match winning goal against Richmond on Saturday night was a result of his determination to never shy away from the responsibility of taking shots for goal, regardless of how many points he’d previously kicked.

McCluggage sealed the 15-point victory with a snap just two-and-a-half minutes before the final siren and that ended a run of five consecutive behinds by the Lions.

The wingman started the string of misses after failing to seize a chance late in the third term that would have given the Lions an unassailable 26-point lead.

Accuracy has been a huge issue for McCluggage this year. Before his sealing goal, he’d missed his previous five shots and kicked 7.21 for the season.

But McCluggage said there was never any doubt in his mind that he wanted the ball in his hands late in the match.

“Fages is always big on everyone playing with flair and their natural instinct. I’ve always been someone that likes to get forward and have shots at goal,” McCluggage explained.

“I still like to think I’ll give it off if I’m in not as good a spot as my teammate, but you can’t shy away from it even though you’re not kicking goals. I know it’ll turn eventually. I keep practising it and that gives me good confidence that in a game I will eventually be able to kick it.”

McCluggage said the Lions had spent a lot of time working on the ability to recover quickly from mistakes this season and focus on the next act of play instead of worrying about the past.

The 22-year-old had also worked relentlessly on kicking goals under pressure at training, given most of his misses during games had been during general play.

He said fixing goal kicking issues wasn’t as simple when it didn’t involve set shots.

“It’s doing a bit of repetition at training and putting yourself under pressure,” he said.

“At training, you can get caught going slowly and not putting pressure on yourself with those on=the-run shots. I’m doing a lot in drills and at the end of every drill I’ll have a coach throw me a ball and practice a shot under pressure.

“You can go through your routine with a set shot. If you just mis-kick one on the run, it might hit the post or just miss. That’s what happened this year.”

The Lions have a week to prepare for their preliminary final and will then play the winner of the semi-final between Geelong and Collingwood.

McCluggage said the team would stick to its usual training routine after earning the break, and would hold an intraclub practice match this weekend to keep the players match hardened.

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