30-year-old NSW Blues rookie Jordan McLean’s road to the top

As a big-boned 17-year-old, McLean arrived in Melbourne with all the potential in the world. And hamstrings that just couldn’t keep up with it.

So much so that Bellamy, his right-hand man Frank Ponissi and the Melbourne medical staff wondered if the former Young Cherry Picker could really make a career out of the game.

“He was plagued with a lot of injuries when he first arrived,” Bellamy said. the herald.

Jordan McLean on his 2013 debut for the Storm.Credit:NRL Imaging

“It was a huge concern. I wasn’t sure. Even our medical staff thought his body growing too fast was the problem, but if we could fix it, nobody really knew.

“There was a lot of testing and a lot of opinion, but it just seemed to hit brick walls.

“That’s why it’s so good to see him putting foot together and playing great footy. Even though he left for the Cowboys in 2017, Macca has always been a popular guy and someone we’re immensely fond of. proud here.

Jordan McLean and the Cowboys have finally found success in 2022 after several lean years.

Jordan McLean and the Cowboys have finally found success in 2022 after several lean years.Credit:Getty Images

McLean’s story has long been linked to one of the game’s most heartbreaking moments, the night a tackle went wrong and opponent Alex McKinnon ended up a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair.

McLean rarely speaks publicly about the 2014 incident and Bellamy declined to do so on Monday.

But much of Melbourne’s enduring respect for the Blues debutant stems from how he handled the fallout, eventually achieving big final wins and Kangaroos honors before joining North Queensland in 2017.

He did it as one of the main props in the game and was paid as such on a multi-million dollar contract that only expires this year, solely for injuries and fluctuations in form in a team struggling to strike again.

“Macca left [Melbourne] as a winner of the premiership and winner of the World Cup in 2017,” Ponissi said.

“So you think, 2018 he’s playing at Origin, only to deal with a Lisfranc injury that wiped out his year. To say it took him five seasons to get there is a great example of his resilience and his perseverance.

Although the Cowboys hovered between 13th and 15th place during McLean’s five years in Townsville, the spot suits him just fine.

“Like the country they come from,” laughs Cowboys football manager Micheal Luck.

“He lives on a property 20 minutes west of town, drives a ute with the pig box in the back, and fishes and hunts whenever he can.”

As the only out-of-contract player on either side of Origin, suggestions of a return to Melbourne have been making the rounds as McLean and the Cowboys work through contract negotiations.

“We would love for him to come back here, but unless we can move a big farm for him to Melbourne, I don’t see him leaving that lifestyle,” says Ponissi. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Which would seem fitting given McLean’s work during North Queensland’s lean years and the position he is held in by the club.

“In a tumultuous year for our club last year, Macca was a guy who stayed solid throughout the season,” Luck said.

“He was captain of the team when Jason [Taumalolo] was out and Michael Morgan was done. It is not an easy situation.

“But he’s one of the first guys picked every week because you know you can count on him.”

Nearly a decade after that first sky-blue encounter, Fittler finds himself doing just that.

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Helen L. Cuellar