McLean recognised for breakout season
He might not get the same media attention as some of his more-fancied teammates, but Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean's exploits haven't gone unnoticed where it matters most.
Following his most prolific season at club level, the 25-year-old was named in Mal Meninga's World All Stars side only days after he was picked in the Emerging Blues squad.
The representative recognition is just reward after McLean recovered from a mid-season ankle injury to help the Storm reach their first grand final since 2012.
The 2009 NYC premiership winner averaged 90 metres and 22 tackles in 2016 from 21 appearances, with the Storm enjoying a 76 per cent winning record when he was on the field.
Speaking to NRL.com, Storm assistant coach Adam O'Brien said McLean's selection was the result of plenty of hard work on and off the field and doesn't see why he can't take the step up and play State of Origin next year after representing Country in 2016.
"Being named in the Emerging Blues and the World All Stars teams is a little bit of reward for what was a really strong season," O'Brien said.
"I think he was in the top two or three players for Country last year, so he's certainly taking his opportunities and he's getting reward for some hard work over the last couple of seasons.
"His body has been injury free and he's managed to string together some really consistent games.
"This will be enormous for Jordan's confidence. Hopefully he can continue his good work after Christmas and into the new season and hopefully he can get more rewards and get selected for the Blues."
With Melbourne's representative players resting following the Four Nations tournament in the UK, it's been left to players like McLean and the returning Billy Slater to lead the way at pre-season training.
Storm skipper Cameron Smith, vice-captain Jesse Bromwich, Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk and Kiwis back-rower Tohu Harris have all been given some time off before the festive season and are due to return to the training paddock on January 12.
"Jordan McLean has been very good for us," O'Brien said.
"He's had a really good first part to this pre-season and he's been one of our leaders in the forwards. He's carrying that weight of not having Cameron and Jesse there and he's been one of the guys to really lead the way.
"Fortunately we've had Billy from the start, so he has been there since day one of pre-season along with all our rookies and new players.
"He's been enormous for us with his leadership out at training and the quality of the sessions really intensifies when he's out there."