Brayden Maynard celebrates his 200th AFL game for Collingwood, against North Melbourne in R14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE is a reason why Brayden Maynard is considered the heart and soul of Collingwood right now. It is why club greats Tony Shaw and Mick McGuane have compared him to the late great spiritual leader Darren Millane; he cares more than everyone else. Not just about winning, but about others.

That care was on show for not just four quarters at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, but also in the immediate aftermath of the Magpies' one-point win over North Melbourne when Maynard paid tribute to a close friend.

Craig McRae had alluded to some off-field issues during his press conference on King's Birthday, but it wasn't his place to elaborate. Maynard was privately dealing with something that had devastated him and his inner circle in the days after the loss to the Western Bulldogs in round 12.

"I've had a mental health (challenge) with one of my really good mates. He passed away; he took his own life a couple of Sundays ago. It is very emotional," Maynard told in the rooms on Sunday.

"I feel so much for the family; the whole Collingwood family is by their side. To have a mate go to mental health is really emotional and really sad.

"We're taking it day by day, me and the boys. We're here for him and his family – Bomber, Dev and Amy – we're always here for them and for each other. That one was for not only the Collingwood family, but for Muggsy's family. Rest in peace."


That personal pain made Maynard's 200th game on Sunday even more significant. Collingwood conceded eight of the first nine goals and eventually reached half-time 48 points behind against a side that had won only one game for the year. When Cam Zurhaar kicked the first goal of the second half, the Kangaroos led by nine goals and were all but home.

But you can never count the Magpies out under McRae, even with seven premiership players missing and seven players with under 20 games of experience. Collingwood pulled off a stunning recovery to record the equal seventh biggest comeback win in VFL/AFL history to soar into the top four for the first time in 2024.

"I'm lost for words, it has been a massive couple of weeks. We've had injuries, but it doesn't matter; our next man up mentality is unbelievable," Maynard said.

"To be 54 points down – I didn't know it was that much, but I knew it was a fair bit – we kept saying believe and trust the process. One goal at a time, we knew what to do, we are really good at managing the moments. I feel like we did exactly that: one goal at a time, one minute at a time and eventually you'll end up on top.

"I'm so proud of the boys and I can believe that we did it because the want to win is so big. To win on a day like today in my 200th, in TJ's [Tew Jiath] first game, that was something special."


Maynard became the first member of the 2014 draft class to reach 200 games, narrowly beating Brisbane co-captain Harris Andrews to the milestone by a week, just ahead of Issac Heeney (190 games), Christian Petracca (189), Touk Miller (186) and Caleb Daniel (186).

"I'm super proud and I'll give a little shout out to myself: I put in the work and I do what I need to do to rock up every week and perform, so I feel like I do that really well," he said.

"People don't see behind the scenes. It's not only me but the professionalism that me and the boys have, the want to get better every day – it is so cliché – but that's the mantra and Fly is so big on that. He has helped me so much to get better to reach milestones like this and perform at a high level.

"You've got to enjoy every day and that's something we've done so well at the Collingwood Football Club – just embrace and don't take for granted what you have. I come into work every day and we get to work. We have fun, our training standards are elite, we train the way we play, we get better, we want more and more from each other every day. To celebrate such a milestone with my family here is a great result. A lot of thank yous along the way."

Brayden Maynard celebrates winning the round eight match between Carlton and Collingwood at the MCG, May 3, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

For most of Sunday, Alastair Clarkson's side honoured the 25th anniversary of North Melbourne's fourth and most recent premiership with a performance the 1999 side would have been proud of. But after some strong words from McRae at the final change, it was Maynard who was celebrated after the final siren.

"We wanted to honour Bruzzy (Maynard) today. It was his 200th game but Bruzzy is more than that; he is the spiritual leader for us. He cares for others more than anyone in our environment. Today was an opportunity to care for him and appreciate him," McRae said on Sunday.

"At three quarter-time I was pretty pointed: I thought the only one honouring Bruzzy was Bruzzy. I was pointed to the other 21 or 22 to pull your finger out; we owe this guy so much, he does so much for us. It was nice to carry him off with a smile on his face because he deserves it."

Collingwood has now won a staggering 21 games by single digits across McRae's first 65 games in charge. That is not a misprint. They have also drawn twice – both in 2024 – and lost four tight games.

Craig McRae and Brayden Maynard after Collingwood's win over Geelong in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

After starting its premiership defence 0-3, Collingwood has lost only one game since, banking eight wins in that time around two draws to reach its mid-season bye in third spot. Maynard senses something special is happening again.

"Ooh yeah baby, I feel it. We have had something special since day one Fly walked in," Maynard said.

"We always had that connection within the group but to be able to shine bright every week on game day with my best mates is something we don't take for granted. I am very grateful for what I have."

It will take something special. No reigning premier has recovered from 0-3 to go all the way since North Melbourne won its first premiership in 1975. Collingwood hasn't gone back-to-back since 1935-36 when Jock McHale was still coaching.

But with Maynard playing like Millane, they are going to take some stopping come September.

If you or anyone you know needs support, contact:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 or
  • 13YARN (13 92 76)
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or
  • Domestic violence support: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or
  • headspace: 1800 650 890 or