IT HAS been less than a year since Lachlan McAndrew played his first game of Australian Football, but Sydney's most recent draftee is now eating six meals a day and dreaming of an AFL debut.
Like his family and friends living on the Northern Beaches of NSW, McAndrew grew up a rugby union fanatic. He later played in junior rep teams and for a school proud of its rugby heritage.
But as McAndrew grew taller – much, much taller – his frame failed to follow and his obvious sporting talents were soon being battered down by bulky bodies on the union field.
"Mum couldn’t get to sleep last night, she kept coming into my room and letting me know how proud of me she is."— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) June 3, 2021
A big night for the McAndrew family last night as Lachie aka "Stretch" was picked up in the mid-season draft! pic.twitter.com/7XQeYb6Lkg
The head of the Swans Academy, Chris Smith, timed his run perfectly, encouraging McAndrew to join the elite juniors squad for at least a few sessions.
"I was looking to make something out of rugby. But once I [started playing against] the more mature bodies, my beanpole of a body didn't hold up too well," McAndrew told AFL.com.au.
"I finished the 2019 rugby union season then started in the Swans Academy later that year. COVID arrived and I still hadn't played a game, so it got to about August in 2020 when I played my first game for Manly-Warringah Wolves. I just loved it."
Less than a year later, the Swans selected the ruckman at pick No.12 in the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
McAndrew is about as raw as they come, stands at 209cm and still has a beanpole body that weighs in at 93kg.
Already known as 'Stretch' to his teammates, one of the 21-year-old's goals for the rest of the season is to start building a ruckman's body.
"I want to really start packing on some size, so the dietician has already given me guidance around what to eat," McAndrew said.
"I need to be eating about six meals a day, obviously hitting the gym and then getting a really good rest. The main thing is lots of protein, I have to pump down a few shakes to hit the protein goals most days."
With barely more than a dozen games under his belt, McAndrew is happy to admit he also needs to learn how to play the position he's made for – the ruck.
He'll be guided by two of the best big men in the business in the Swans' in-form ruckman Tom Hickey, and six-time All-Australian ruckman and assistant coach Dean Cox.
"I really need to understand more about what happens in the middle of the ground, around the ruck," McAndrew said.
"I haven't started any ruck-specific work with Hickey and Cox yet, but I'm keen to start learning the little tips and tricks.
"I feel like I'm at the stage where I'm getting the touch right but then there's the bodywork in the middle, which Hickey is so good at, with that late shove that wins you the ball or the easy tap. It's all about perfecting that ruck craft."