Finlay Macrae celebrates a goal during the match between Collingwood and West Coast at Marvel Stadium in round nine, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FIN MACRAE would have played more games by now if he played elsewhere. But he wants to play for Collingwood, even if life on the fringe is a rollercoaster. 

The 22-year-old has had to earn every opportunity since being selected at pick No.19 in the 2020 AFL Draft. After featuring nine times in his debut season under Nathan Buckley and Robert Harvey, Macrae managed only three appearances across Craig McRae's first two seasons at the helm, including just once last year as the sub. 

More opportunities have materialised this year, although they haven't come easy. There wasn't any room for Macrae in Opening Round, despite an impressive summer at the AIA Centre. He was picked a week later, but started as the sub, making a splash when activated late. 


Two more games subbed in and then out resulted in another stint in the VFL. That is what happens when the midfield is stacked with current and veteran stars like Nick Daicos, Jordan De Goey, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Crisp, Tom Mitchell and Josh Daicos. Getting in is hard. Staying in is even harder. 

Aside from injury-plagued pair Zach Reid (nine games) and Conor Stone (10), plus Ryan Angwin (16) from Greater Western Sydney, Macrae (17 games) has played the fewest games of the top-20 from 2020.

While reigning Bob Skilton Medallist Errol Gulden (pick No.32) has raced to 77, Archie Perkins (pick No.9) has played 68 games and Max Holmes (pick No.20) is up to 61, Macrae has spent more time in the VFL (42 games) than at AFL level, waiting for an opportunity to open. 


Macrae showed he has added more strings to his bow when he kicked three goals from 17 disposals playing across half-forward on Mother's Day, before playing another important role in the four-point win over Adelaide on Saturday.

"If you're playing at a club that isn't as fortunate to have this many quality players, you might get a lot more opportunities, but at a club like Collingwood you really do have to be ready when your opportunity comes," Macrae told on Saturday.  

"It definitely pushes you harder, especially training with Nick and Josh (Daicos) and Jordy (De Goey) and 'Pendles' (Scott Pendlebury) and all that; you really do have to be ready; you've just got to keep putting your hand up and when an opportunity comes you've got to try and take it. 

"Me, Reef [McInnes], Harvey Harrison, Joe Richards, there are a few boys in that situation, so we lean on each other and as hard as it is, it is also nice to see your teammates go well. But it is nice to get an opportunity now."

Nick Daicos (left) and Finlay Macrae in action during a Collingwood intra-club match on February 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

While Dan McStay and Taylor Adams were the heartbreak stories of Grand Final week, and John Noble was the hard luck story of last September after he watched on from afar after playing 83 consecutive games, Macrae was also an emergency for all three finals, gaining plenty from being involved in a squad that went all the way. 

"It is a funny one. There was a bit of frustration at times," he said.

"Half the time the VFL played before the AFL and sometimes you were the carryover, but there were other blokes in a similar position to lean on. It was great to experience being an emergency in that finals series and get that taste. It made me want to come back this year and make an impact."


Macrae got to work over the off-season. He spent plenty of time with Collingwood physio Simon Anning and strength and conditioning coach Victor Nguyen over the off-season and pre-season to improve his running performance, leading to a summer of significant gains, where he showed he is the next cab off the rank. 

"I did a lot of work with Simon and Victor, who are both at our club," he said.

"I had some back problems and that sort of opened up my running ability, which was a strength in my draft year. That created some strengths for me to play with and something we worked on in the off-season. That has carried over into the season."

Finlay Macrae in action during Collingwood's training session at AIA Centre on February 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Collingwood GM Graham Wright finalised a one-year extension for 2025 with Macrae's manager, Paul Connors from Connors Sports Management, on the eve of Opening Round, a full season before his contract expired, showing his desire to fight for a spot at the Magpies, rather than explore greater opportunity elsewhere. 

"I don't know why they released the contract then. I'd actually signed it a few months before then," he said.

"I love Collingwood, I've got a lot of mates here. It is an ageing list so I think I can put my best foot forward and make some inroads and hopefully keep getting selected and play some games. It was a good opportunity."

That signature won't stop rival clubs continuing to monitor the Xavier College product across this winter and next. He is ticking off a Bachelor of Applied Science and Construction degree two subjects per trimester, and now ticking off more senior games in the black and white stripes.