Emerging midfielder Toby McLean believes it will be the Bulldogs’ young brigade that determines whether the group takes the next step in 2019.

Despite the Dogs’ struggles last season, the McLean produced a career-best year, and was one of just two players to feature in every game.

The 23-year-old believes the side has what it takes to improve on what it produced in 2018.

“(There’s) positive signs coming into this year,” Mclean told SEN Afternoons.

“We’ve had a really good block of training, like everyone has, and we’re ready to go with the JLT games just around the corner.

“To be honest, I think we’re just looking to improve on last year.

“I know we didn’t have a great year last year, but towards the end, the last three or four games we had some really good form behind us and it was really the young players that stood up for us.”

While still relatively new to the AFL system, with 60 games under his belt, McLean is excited by the young players coming through.

And he believes the injuries which created opportunity for young players in 2018 will hold the side in good stead this year.

“It sounds a bit strange I know,” he said.

“I’m only 23, but I’m talking about the young players behind me. I’m sort of in the mid-range of players… it sort of happened quite quickly, I’ve gone from the youngest to the mid-range in four or five years.

“There’s blokes like Aaron Naughton and Ed Richards that were in their first year (last year) and were forced to become young leaders.

“We’ve got a good group of youth, and I think that’s what’s going to take us forward.”

New recruits Taylor Duryea (Hawthorn) and Sam Lloyd (Richmond) have also had a big impact in the pre-season.

“Those two have been enormous, especially during training and speaking up when they feel like they need to,” McLean said.

“Taylor has a lot of leadership behind him, playing in those flags at Hawthorn, and Sammy Lloyd… his leadership that he’s brought to us young kids has been next level.”