Mac Andrew celebrates with fans after the R15 match between Gold Coast and Hawthorn at Heritage Bank Stadium on June 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NOT MUCH more could have gone wrong for Mac Andrew this pre-season, but the wheel might be turning just in the nick of time for the Gold Coast youngster.

Andrew, entering his third season in the AFL, didn't train with his teammates prior to the Christmas break as he first endured a bout of COVID and then suffered a hamstring injury upon resumption.

Things didn't get much better early in the New Year, as a concussion put the 20-year-old on the sidelines for another couple of weeks.

But now, with Opening Round against Richmond not too far away, Andrew is back among the main group and trying to impress new coach Damien Hardwick.

He said overcoming the pre-season setbacks had been difficult for someone who thrives off confidence.

"It's been tough. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't struggled," Andrew told

Mac Andrew warms up ahead of the R10 match between Gold Coast and Brisbane at the Gabba on May 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I've just been finding mentors away from the footy club – whether it's my brother or my dad or other friends – to talk to about these problems and what I can do to get out of that (negative) mindset and get back to the way I was playing last year.

"I think I'm typically a real confident guy, whether I'm playing good or bad. 

"I'll always hold my head high and still go for my marks and try to play to my strengths, even when it might not be coming off."

Fresh off a breakout 2023 season in which he played 17 games and impressed with his aerial expertise and ability to intercept mark, Andrew is keen to take another step this year.

He played alongside Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard in the key defensive posts, also being trialled on smaller players to see if his speed and agility could match it with the swifter types.

While his on-field star was on the rise, the No.5 pick from the 2021 AFL Draft had two off-field misdemeanours that saw him slapped with club-imposed suspensions.

Mac Andrew kicks the ball during Gold Coast's clash against St Kilda in round 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Andrew has not missed a beat since his last slip-up in June and is now trying to fit into Hardwick’s jigsaw puzzle that saw him plonked at full-forward in a recent intraclub match as he continued to gain fitness.

"I think it's a little experiment," Andrew said.

"I don't think it's permanent, I'm really happy playing down back, but the more tools I have in my bag, the more I can help the team out.

"I'm just learning off 'Chuck' (Ballard) and Coillo and how they defend, and taking things they do on me and trying to use that in my game. 

"It was a good learning experience."

After the interruptions he's had in the past three months, Andrew said he would be happy playing forward, back or in the ruck – three spots he's been pitched into during the pre-season already.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team out," he said.