COLLINGWOOD vice-captain Brayden Maynard has taken the next step in his recovery from a shoulder reconstruction and is almost ready to be let off the leash ahead of the crucial February pre-season block.
The 27-year-old went under the knife in the weeks following the Magpies’ Grand Final win over Brisbane after carrying the injury across the second half of a season where he finished equal second with Nick Daicos in the Copeland Trophy.
Maynard completed most of Monday’s session at the AIA Centre and will transition back into full contact training within the next couple of weeks, just in time to bank some match simulation sessions ahead of the club’s two practice matches.
Collingwood has almost a clean bill of health right now, aside from key forward Dan McStay who underwent a knee reconstruction in December after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament at training.
Premiership trio Jack Crisp, Brody Mihocek and Jamie Elliott, plus Charlie Dean missed training on Monday due to positive COVID-19 tests at the start of the day, but all four are expected back later in the week.
Reigning best and fairest winner Josh Daicos completed a modified program on Monday but showed minimal signs of the foot issue that has hampered him during January.
After being managed across December before undergoing minor wrist surgery ahead of Christmas, captain Darcy Moore has returned to full fitness this month and banked another full session on Monday.
With McStay expected to miss most, if not all of 2024, Reef McInnes and Ash Johnson have made strong impressions across the past couple of months as they look to cement a spot in Craig McRae’s forward line this year.
Johnson has improved his fitness this summer and impressed the coaching staff with his aerial ability after playing 15 games last year, but none after round 21.
McInnes has been one of the risers on the track to date, putting his hand up for McStay’s spot with standout sessions, after managing 11 appearances across his first three seasons at the club.
Former first-round pick Fin Macrae has also continued to quietly mount a case for a more regular senior berth across the pre-season after being limited to just one AFL game in 2023, following two in 2022. With Taylor Adams being traded to Sydney last October, there is a spot up for grabs in the Magpies’ midfield rotation.
Harry DeMattia hasn’t put a foot wrong across his first pre-season after arriving at the Magpies via pick No. 25 in the 2023 AFL Draft, while Tew Jiath has flaunted his game-breaking ability but needed to be managed at times.
Seven non-listed players trained with the AFL squad on Monday with Collingwood VFL duo Josh Eyre and Campbell Hustwaite, Footscray captain Lachie Sullivan, delisted pair Brynn Teakle and Jack Bytel, plus VAFA star Sam Sofronidis continuing their trials during the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP). Former Hawthorn rookie Ned Long also trained after signing with the VFL program last month.
Eyre, who spent two seasons at Essendon without playing a game before joining Collingwood VFL in 2023, produced another eye-catching session playing as a key defender, continuing his push for a second chance at the highest level after trialling with St Kilda last pre-season.
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Sullivan was the last player to be invited to train with the Magpies and has impressed many internally with his work in tight, but finds himself facing tight competition with Bytel and Hustwaite for a long awaited shot at AFL level.
Collingwood has three spots available on the rookie list and are expected to wait until closer to the SSP deadline on February 19 before making decisions on the six train-on players.
The Magpies will fine tune their premiership defence preparations when they face North Melbourne at Arden Street on February 21 ahead of a final practice match against Richmond at Ikon Park on February 27.