It’s fair to say that Brock McLean has received a lot of heat over the course of his AFL career.

A much-maligned midfielder, it can be said, what with being on the receiving end of a particularly blatant speech from Brent Moloney after leaving his old club, Melbourne, to move to Carlton. That’s not to mention the antics of his Twitter account, let alone the antics caused by doing a burnout in front of Trinity College years ago.

Combine that with an injury-filled first year at Visy Park, after tough and interrupted pre-seasons with Melbourne, then playing almost solely in the VFL from there onwards.

He infamously shunned a Brett Kirk handshake, and was the highest-paid VFL-regular of sorts when he came into the JJ Liston Trophy, the VFL’s equivalent of the Brownlow Medal, as the favourite, although ultimately not polling very well despite a great season.

The man nicknamed “Chooka”, purely because it sounded good, has built up a fair reputation, it has to be said. And this is a man once dubbed as the future of Melbourne’s midfield, and somewhat Carlton’s, and the successor to David Neitz’s captaincy. All at the age of 21.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for McLean, that’s for sure, especially after being the highly-rated youngster he was, going at pick 5 in the 2003 AFL Draft.

However, watching Saturday’s game against Richmond, he recorded 27 possessions with 18 contested, eleven tackles and nine clearances – those last three are season-highs, and of those three, all but tackles are AFL career-highs – and not to mention kicking what was the match-winning goal, which seems to be the final speck of dirt gone; a clean slate for McLean.

It’s an immense turnaround, given he played ten games in his first two years at Carlton as a high-cost recruit – it gave Melbourne pick 11 in the 2009 AFL Draft (used on Jordan Gysberts) and is likely earning $400,000 a year with the Blues.

It seemed as if they were throwing away money. At least, after his first bout of injuries it did, where he only came into the side as a result of injury to a best 22 player. And, even then, he was consistently solid as a proven contested player. Then consistently dropped.

His 2012 has been interesting, to say the very least. He didn’t play until Round 4, replacing speedster Dennis Armfield who was suffering from a knee complaint, and recorded 17 disposals and eight clearances; safe to say that McLean was gone the next week with Armfield fit again.

In a more like-for-like situation, with Marc Murphy down, he returned to AFL football against old side Melbourne. 33 disposals, about half of them contested, amongst five tackles and clearances each, suggested he wasn’t going to return to VFL soon.

The icing on the cake for McLean, regardless of how well he played, regardless of his off-field indiscretions, was Round 16.

Proven contested players in Murphy, Chris Judd, Andrew Carrazzo and Ed Curnow were all selected. Two months prior, McLean would see those names for Carlton and expect to be playing VFL – that wasn’t the case. Carlton repaid the persistence and performance.

They lost that match, but McLean still totalled 25 disposals and six clearances; average by his standards. His standards that, on-field, he’s now seemingly reset for himself.

It really does define his endeavour as a person and player; he’s built a decent record of events more infamous than famous, and does cop a lot of flack. However, the way he’s able to shrug it off in his own light-hearted and quirky style, whether it’s on-field or online, and get straight to focusing on what he does best, is admirable.

And that goal to seal Carlton’s push for finals by overcoming Richmond will be a famous highlight in his career.

He’s looking as if he’ll, once again, become an important part of Carlton’s midfield, and to quote him once, it’s “Good fanks.”