Mac Andrew in action during Gold Coast's clash against Greater Western Sydney in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

BEING left out of Gold Coast's team for the first three matches of the year was a tough pill to swallow for its gifted defender Mac Andrew.

The 20-year-old was a staple in the Suns' best line-up last year, playing 17 matches, but after a disrupted pre-season and taking his time to impress new coach Damien Hardwick, 2024 started differently.

Before the calendar hit February, Andrew missed training with COVID-19, a hamstring injury and concussion, taking part in neither pre-season match against Brisbane or Greater Western Sydney.

So, it came as no surprise when the No.5 pick from the 2021 AFL Draft was not in the senior team against Richmond, Adelaide or the Western Bulldogs to start the season.

Ned Moyle, Mac Andrew and Jed Walter during Gold Coast's 2024 team photo day at Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre. Picture: AFL Photos

Speaking to ahead of Sunday night's QClash against the Lions, Andrew admitted it was a difficult time.

"I had some pretty tough chats with 'Dimma' (Hardwick)," he said.

"He thought there were people that deserved to play over me, which I agreed with at the time.

"It made me work a lot harder.

"I thought if I want to get back in the team, I've got to change something up. I had that 'head down, bum up' attitude and grind my way back into the team.

"There was a bit of tough love from Dimma. 

"I had chats with those around me, family and close friends. I told them how I felt about it.

"They all came back to me with the same advice – get back and show them where you belong."

Mac Andrew spoils the ball during the match between Gold Coast and West Coast at People First Stadium in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Andrew played his first game of the season in Gather Round against Greater Western Sydney at Mount Barker – and wasted no time showing Hardwick he had no intention of returning to the VFL any time soon.

The long-limbed defender accumulated 24 disposals, an incredible 16 of them intercepts, as he cut off Giants forward foray after foray.

Now with four matches for the season, Andrew is gathering 10 intercepts a game to lead the League on averages.

"I knew I could play at the level and compete at the level. I was going in there with confidence," he said.

"I'm a pretty confident guy if you ask the rest of my teammates. I know every time I step out there, I can match it with anyone."

As he learns to play Hardwick's system, while also infusing his own flair, Andrew said a change in attitude off the field had played a huge role in his development this season.

He received two club-imposed suspensions within a six-month span from late 2022 to mid-2023, saying there had been a lot to learn from that period.

Andrew was full of praise for backline leader Sam Collins, saying the vice-captain helped him identify what was important when he went to the club.

"As everyone knows I haven't been perfect since I've come in," Andrew said.

"He's helped me find balance of life outside footy and life within the four walls. When you come in, you're here to work and not mess around.

"I feel I'm in a good mindset at the moment … when I come to the footy club, I'm here for one reason, one purpose, which is to get the best out of myself and help the team."


And beyond that, there's been self-growth. Andrew said realising his actions affected more than just him had been a turning point.

"If I messed up I thought it would only affect me, but the leaders have to go through a whole process of what to do and it puts stress on them, which I probably didn't get when I was a bit younger," he said.

"I'm still only 20, but it's things like that that I've learned, and I think it's made me a better person and more grateful for what I get to do.

"I've realised I can't take my opportunity for granted.

"There's hundreds, if not thousands, of other kids out there that want to be in my position.

"Just not taking it for granted and making the most out of every day and every opportunity I get."