A PREMIERSHIP forward after 19 games, Western Bulldogs star Toby McLean will return to attack this season as the Dogs search for greater avenues to goal.

A breakout midfielder last season, the 23-year-old is set to be deployed in the forward 50 as Luke Beveridge prepares for deeper options in the centre square.

The move comes as Tom Liberatore returns from injury, Josh Dunkley takes on greater responsibility and No.6 draft pick Bailey Smith emerges as a midfield talent.  

"I think it will be (life as a forward), especially for the first half of the year," McLean told AFL.com.au at the Dogs' season launch.  

"With 'Libba' (Liberatore) coming back, he's huge and his influence in the midfield is massive for us, so I think I will see a bit more time forward. 

"It's good to try new things, I had a lot of mid time last year and it's good to change it up."

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Rather than seeing the switch as a demotion, McLean views it as a valuable addition to a side ranked No.15 in the competition in 2018 for total scores.  

"Everything's based on your pressure and the defensive side of things," McLean said.

"For me it's all about that and keeping the ball in the forward line for us boys and help us score easier.  

"As one of the smaller boys I've got to get to the drop of the ball for Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache. 

"That seems such a long time ago now (2016 Grand Final). I was only a skinny boy back then and hopefully you can tell I've put on a bit of weight."

Now 79kg and sporting a beard that he hasn't shaved since last year's best and fairest, McLean said he'll continue to stick with it to "just make me look a little angrier."