Maclaren, 26, grew up in Sunbury in Melbourne’s north-west - a suburb better known for rock music festivals, wineries, produce, and being the ancestral home of The Ashes, than for breeding international-class football players.

The prospect of being close to family and friends again weighed heavily as a factor for Maclaren to ink a long-term deal with Melbourne City in the offseason as he sought to come back to the A-League after highs and lows overseas in Germany and Scotland.

And the link between Maclaren’s peace of mind and his red-hot footballing form is clear for all to see.

“Having been on the road for the last 10 years, I haven’t been able to visit family as I’ve had to make sacrifices around that. But it’s all been worth it,” Maclaren said ahead of their Friday night match against Perth Glory at AAMI Park.

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“I’ve come home as a bigger man and a more mature person and player, and having a close support network around me now has me in a better place where you’re just starting to hit your prime as an athlete,” he added.

Twelve years have passed between when Maclaren played in the youth team setup at the Green Gully Soccer Club in Keilor Downs, a 20-to-30-minute drive from his family’s home.

Enhancing his skills at Green Gully, highly regarded as one of the finest youth football academies in Victoria and perhaps in the whole of Australia, exists as one of Maclaren’s most vivid childhood memories.

“When I was a young player growing up, playing for Green Gully was such a privilege because as a Sunbury boy, it was a bit for my dad to drive, but we also had other players who came further out – some came from Geelong, others came from Shepparton, and so forth. As a result, we had the best team in Victoria in the U13s and U14s for those three years,” Maclaren said.

And at Melbourne City, in the club’s posh and modern training academy setup in Bundoora in Melbourne’s north, Maclaren notes that it isn’t only head and shoulders above what he had at his disposal playing in previous A-League tours of duty for Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar, but also in Europe for German Bundesliga 2 club SV Darmstadt 96 and the Scottish Premier League’s Hibernian.

Specifically, Maclaren pays great tribute to the quality of recovery facilities and the medical staff at Melbourne City that only saw him miss just a couple of league fixtures from a recent hamstring injury that could have easily seen him sidelined for several more matches.