SINCE playing in Fremantle's 2013 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn, Chris Mayne admits he doubted he would ever get another shot at premiership glory.
With good reason, too. Mayne was a part of the Dockers side that made the finals the following two seasons, before they fell down the ladder in 2016.
He left on a much scrutinized and lucrative four-year deal to join Collingwood, and managed three games last year. His place at the club was in jeopardy despite the long-term deal he had signed.
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But after playing 20 games this season for the Magpies, including last week's stunning preliminary final win over Richmond, Mayne is back on the biggest stage. And it's an ex-Docker who has been front of mind this week.
Mayne's former skipper at Fremantle Matthew Pavlich played in 353 games for the Dockers, but couldn't ever lift the premiership cup. His only shot was in 2013, when Dockers fell 15 points short of the Hawks but were wasteful with their chances.
"There's so many stories in the AFL like that but it's closer to me with 'Pav'. He's such a champion of the game with 350 games, 700 goals, best and fairests and All Australians. He would give all that up to win one Grand Final," Mayne told AFL.com.au this week.
"I might be speaking out of turn, but I believe knowing him he 100 per cent would [swap it all for a flag]. That was his biggest thing – enjoy the little rewards you get along the way but it ideally is all about playing in a premiership.
"I know for a fact if I was able to get ultimate success he'd be thrilled for me."
Mayne chairs off Pavlich after the Freo skipper's 350th game. Picture: AFL Photos
Pavlich has touched base with Mayne this week, as he did many times during last year for support as the spotlight was on the Collingwood recruit.
Pavlich is attending Mayne's wedding next month in Melbourne, and he's one of a few Dockers to have made contact with their ex-teammate this week, including Hayden Ballantyne and Tom Sheridan, who is on holiday in Germany.
Mayne smiled when reflecting on his past 12 months, and ability to go from the football scrapheap to a Grand Final. He is one of Collingwood's many and varied success stories this season, and says he always thought it would take some time for him to underline his value at the Holden Centre.
"It was definitely one of the toughest periods of my career that I've faced, but when you've got great people around you. Then you make great relationships with new people things can change quickly. It takes time to build relationships," he said.
He started this season in the VFL but returned to Collingwood's side in round six and hasn't missed a game since. Mayne hasn't thought about how proving the critics wrong would feel if the Magpies get past West Coast on Saturday.
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"I don't know if it'll be the last laugh. I've still got two years after this to go [on my contract]. It's rewarding for a lot of work that I've put in, but every other bloke has put in a lot of hard work over the journey," he said.
"For myself, my partner, my family and everyone that's involved in my inner circle, it'll be extremely rewarding. But there's still so much more hard work to come and we're not shying away from it. We're embracing it and getting ready for the big one."
Mayne has often thought about Fremantle's build-up to the 2013 decider, which was the Dockers' maiden Grand Final appearance. He's never watched that game back and doubts he ever will, but he's glad some of the distractions that came that year won't be present for the Pies.
"It was the first time in the club's history we'd made it, all of WA was talking about it, it was a big occasion. Then coming across what I look back on was it didn't stop at all," the 29-year-old said.
"There was no time to really have that switch off or down time because of the travelling and staying in a hotel. There's people everywhere around the hotel and cameras and everyone there. Team buses, security guards.
"It was not a normal week, especially travelling. The best thing about this week is that we're able to enjoy it here and then go home to loved ones.
"I don't know if it will make a difference. I'm just excited to get another opportunity to play with my brothers here."