Buddy’s understudy ready to join main cast after priceless lessons from the master

Hayden McLean has been unofficially cast as Buddy’s understudy but the young Sydney forward could be days away from taking centre stage with Lance Franklin.

It will be a case of the master and apprentice combining if Franklin is cleared to make a shock return against Melbourne on Saturday night.

Hayden McLean trains with the Swans on Tuesday.Credit:Phil Hillyard

“He helped me a lot with my forward craft, going through vision each week, talking about the things he worked or the things he did when he was younger. He certainly has had an impact on me and my forward craft. Sam Reid has been massive for me as well.

“A few games I said ‘can you watch my forward patterns, where I’m getting, and each quarter report back?’. That helped each week and then it became more natural.

“He reaffirmed that my natural instinct was right so stick to that. Then it’s about getting more separation or leading patterns you can hold a bit longer or go a bit earlier, reading the cues of your teammates.”

Franklin is not the only member of football royalty that McLean has called a mentor, having also worked with former Hawthorn great Dermott Brereton as a teenager. Brereton’s son played in the same junior teams as McLean at Beaumaris, in bayside Melbourne.

McLean began as an understudy but after kicking four goals in the win against Geelong, and with Sam Reid injured, he will not be the man to make way for Franklin should the veteran be cleared to return, as he was for rounds two and four.

“You want to keep playing but you have to understand he’s one of the greatest to play the game,” McLean said. “To go out and play with him I’m yet to do that, I think that’d be an experience of a lifetime.

“He’s got that energy and experience that he can give to the group, whether it’s training with him or having that presence. You find that bit extra having him around. Being one of the best, they do that.”

If Franklin plays, McLean would likely assume Reid’s role as a second marking forward and provide ruck relief for Tom Hickey. It was in the ruck where McLean cut his teeth after being secured as a preseason supplemental selection for the 2019 season.

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