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Storm forward Jordan McLean has revealed how he had to convince coach Craig Bellamy that he was mentally ready for a return to the NRL before taking his place in the Melbourne team for Monday night's win over the Titans.
McLean's first NRL game since receiving a seven-game suspension for his part in the tackle that severely injured Knights forward Alex McKinnon in Round 3 was a solitary stint that started late in the first half of the Storm's 24-20 win but which represented a significant milestone in his own recovery.
Nine weeks on the sidelines came to an end when he turned out in the unfamiliar colours of Cronulla in the NSW Cup competition on June 7 but that combined with a gruelling training regime while he was suspended gave him the belief that he was ready to represent the Storm again.
"[Bellamy] just asked me through the week whether I was ready to come back and play," McLean said on Monday night. "I think he thought maybe one more week back in NSW Cup but I said I was sweet to come back whenever he wanted me. It was good to be back out there tonight.
"I just felt good last week (playing in NSW Cup) and that I wouldn't let the team down if I was out there."
The emotional toll the ordeal took on many at both the Storm and Knights reportedly led to Bellamy questioning his desire to continue coaching but he looked a relieved man in the post-match press conference, not only for the third win in the space of seven weeks but to once again be able to talk about Jordan McLean, the footballer.
"Probably a little bit earlier in the week I made a couple of points to him and other than that I think he handled it pretty well," he said when asked whether he treated McLean any differently in preparation for his return.
"He likes to keep to himself basically and his thoughts and emotions, he doesn't like letting out there too much but he seemed to handle the week OK and I thought he was reasonably strong tonight.
"He didn't play a long time – he only had the one stint – but we'll slowly but surely ease him into longer minutes. It's good that he's back playing footy.
"His situation is quite unique I suppose and he had a lot of time to think about [the incident] while he's been out so having his mind occupied with something else has been really good for him. We'll slowly but surely give him more time, more minutes and hopefully he can keep getting better."
Man of the match against the Titans, Jesse Bromwich played alongside McLean in Melbourne's premiership-winning under-20s team of 20009 and believes the ordeal of the past two months will not only help his personal development, but also to realise his enormous potential.
"It will definitely help him to grow a bit within himself, I'm not sure how much," Bromwich said.
"That was a really tough time for the club and also for Newcastle but to have 'Macca' back and playing footy and seeing him being happy has been really good for the club and has kept everyone's spirits up in this tough time in the Origin time.
"Macca's got a lot of potential. He's a big man and he runs hard, he just needs to really believe in himself and I think he can take himself to another level."
The incident at AAMI Park on March 23 will forever be associated with Jordan McLean but the 23-year-old is now trying to put it behind him, just like the gruelling fitness sessions imposed by Storm head of performance Matt Ford during his exile.
"I trained heaps. I got flogged all the time by Matt Ford and I'm glad that's all in the past and I'm back in footy mode," McLean said. "It was almost like a second pre-season."