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Midfield move just the tonic for McLean

with Ryan Davidson (AFL Media)  July 16, 2017 10:49 AM

Bevo talks Blues, Young debut and more Watch Senior Coach Luke Beveridge's press conference on Saturday morning, ahead of the Bulldogs' Sunday afternoon clash at the MCG against Carlton.

It was a difficult night for the Bulldogs in Adelaide last Friday night, but one player who left an impression was emerging midfielder Toby Mclean.

In a performance coach Luke Beveridge described as one of the team’s worst in his time at the club, McLean, 21, was a shining light on a dark night, collecting a career-high 32 possessions in the 59-point loss.

In his third season at Whitten Oval, he said his recent move into the midfield had allowed him to realise a burning ambition.

“I always felt I was capable of playing in the midfield and the coaches obviously did as well,” McLean told AFL.com.au.

“I thought it was one of my better games, but I’ve still got a lot of improvement to go.

“'Bevo’ just tells me to play on instinct and with lots of energy.

“I’ve been getting a bit more midfield time, and I get to play alongside the likes of (Jack) Macrae, (Marcus) Bontempelli and (Tom) Liberatore in there.

“I feel like those guys make me a better player, but it’s good to be around the ball a bit more and I’m really enjoying it.”

McLean’s capacity to get the balance right between defence and attack would have pleased the coach. He also laid a team-high eight tackles – an aspect of the game he loves.

“I really enjoy tackling blokes, and the more I do that the more I get into the game,” McLean said.

“It helps with my intensity and it complements the offensive side of my game.”

After playing mainly as a high-flying forward during his junior football days, it was only a matter of time until Beveridge injected McLean into the middle to better utilise his excellent agility, sound disposal and an ability to win the contested ball.

A drop in form mid-season forced the Oakleigh Chargers product to spend time in the VFL to help rediscover some of his best football.

However, the time in the state league gave him a chance to showcase his on-ball capabilities and produce a game in which he collected 38 disposals, 11 tackles and a goal against Sandringham during round 10.

He earned a senior recall after that performance, which provided the catalyst for where McLean finds himself in the team.

“I knew I wasn’t playing at my best, the coaches knew that, so I had to go down to Footscray for a few weeks, play as well as I could, and it wasn’t long before I came back up,” he said.

“It always helps going back to the VFL and getting that midfield time. It also helped with my fitness, which was really beneficial.”