BRAYDEN Maynard is in Port Douglas right now getting some sun after a frenetic month in the pouring rain and freezing cold that has catapulted Collingwood into a September contender, perhaps even the great unknown of the finals race. 

The Magpies deserve a well-earned rest after a four-game winning streak put them in eighth spot at 8-5 and daring to dream of returning to the finals, even if new coach Craig McRae is yet to drop the F-word.   

Collingwood started its run in Perth when it upset Fremantle in torrential rain on the Dockers' home deck in round 10. The Magpies then held their nerve in the dying seconds to beat Carlton and Hawthorn by four points each on consecutive Sunday afternoons at the MCG, before surprising reigning premier Melbourne in stunning fashion on Queen’s Birthday. 

Brayden Maynard (left) and Brody Mihocek celebrate Collingwood's win over Melbourne in round 13 at the MCG on June 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

At 25 years of age, and with his 150th game to come when Collingwood hosts Greater Western Sydney after the mid-season bye, Maynard is now one of the most experienced players at the AIA Centre – only seven players have played more games – and he knows the bye has come at the ideal time to reset ahead of the road to September. 

“That was absolutely crazy. When it’s a close game going into the fourth quarter and you get a few goals on the run and kick another one, the crowd get into it and you kind of feel unstoppable. It was a great win by the boys,” Maynard told after Monday’s 26-point win over Melbourne.

“They have been pretty intense games. The bye has come at a good time. It will be good for us just to chill out, go away, get some sun and reset. They’ve been nailbiters. (Queen's Birthday) was a nailbiter as well, even though we kicked away late.”

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Maynard launches ripping goal from long-range

Brayden Maynard kicked this brilliant running goal from well beyond the arc to extend his side's lead

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Maynard will become just the third player taken from the 2014 NAB AFL Draft to reach 150 games in round 15, after Gold Coast co-captain Touk Miller (round 12, 2022) and Brisbane vice-captain Harris Andrews, who is scheduled to reach the milestone three days before the star Magpie when the Lions travel to face the Demons. 

Collingwood secured three key figures in its future inside the first 30 picks of that draft, landing Jordan De Goey at pick No.5 and Darcy Moore at pick No.9 as a father-son pick, before selecting Maynard at pick No.30. 

After coming 10th in the Copeland Trophy in 2018, Maynard placed fifth in 2019 and 2020 before finishing runner-up behind Jack Crisp in last year’s best and fairest count, months before inking a three-year contract extension that ties him to the club until the end of 2025.

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Collingwood's Brayden Maynard dives for a ball in front of Western Bulldogs' Zaine Cordy in round 10 at Marvel Stadium on May 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Maynard is proud of what he has achieved to this point of his career, praising the work of Collingwood’s sport psychologist Jacqui Louder, who has helped him navigate through some difficult times away from football.  

“It is a good time to reflect. I’m obviously really proud about what I’ve been able to put in. I’ve worked really hard. There have been a few struggles along the way that I’ve had to deal with outside of footy that I’ve got through and worked through with the psych,” he said.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do and where I’ve come from. Jacqui has been amazing for me; absolutely love what she is doing at the club. We’re building one big family at the club so everyone just feels comfortable. It’s a really good place to be a part of.”

The football department at Collingwood underwent wholesale changes at the end of last season after the Magpies finished 17th with just six wins on the board. 

McRae replaced Collingwood favourite son Nathan Buckley after nearly a decade at the helm, before signing former senior coaches, Justin Leppitsch and Brendon Bolton, to join him at the AIA Centre.

Nathan Buckley celebrates his last game as Collingwood coach with Brayden Maynard after beating Melbourne in round 13, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Maynard said the playing group has relished the opportunity to reset with fresh voices leading the show, not just in the two hours we see them each weekend, but also Monday to Friday inside the four walls of the football club.

“It is such a good place to be around. You come into the club and you want to be there. It’s really good fun, where I feel last year, some boys weren’t having a great time. But that feeling, the genuine love and support we have for the club is back and it’s well and truly coming,” he said.

“We are playing a really good brand of footy and from what I’m hearing, everyone is loving the way we are playing. We are just taking it week by week; we don’t want to think about the future.”

Brayden Maynard in action in Collingwood's round four match against West Coast at Marvel Stadium on April 9, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Having seen McRae up close across the first 13 rounds of the season, Maynard is surprised it has taken this long for a club to provide the man who won three premierships at Brisbane, before serving a long coaching apprenticeship, with an opportunity to lead an AFL side. 

“I’m shocked that he hasn’t got a job beforehand,” he said. 

“He obviously coached VFL Richmond and got a flag with them. He is such a good people person. He knows how the boys go about it. He is one of the boys and a very good family man. He has brought a lot to the table. I’m absolutely loving having him here.”

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Collingwood will return from four days off by the end of the week and start building towards a finish to the season that could return the powerhouse club to the month that matters most. 

Maynard will return from the sunshine state ready to reacquaint himself with an old foe in GWS superstar Toby Greene in his 150th game next Sunday afternoon at the MCG.