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No-frills Pie on aspirations, new role, and contract

BRAYDEN Maynard wants to captain Collingwood.

It’s something he isn’t shy about admitting, and he wants it known widely that when Scott Pendlebury eventually steps aside from the post he’s held for nine seasons, Maynard will be putting his hand up.

“It’s always been my dream (to captain Collingwood),” Maynard told AFL.com.au.

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“It’d be quite amazing … (captaincy) is something that I love taking on board and it’s not something I would take lightly.”

The 25-year-old knows he has some work to do to get there though, but it’s yet another challenge he’s willing to take on.

“I’ve still got a few years in me where I have to learn a lot more and mature, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

Collingwood last week announced a four-man leadership group that didn’t include Maynard, and with Pendlebury widely tipped to stand down as skipper at the end of the year, the view externally was that Taylor Adams, Jeremy Howe or Darcy Moore look likeliest to assume the role.

Not that it bothers Maynard what external voices think.

“Within the four walls is where I really care what’s said about me … I know what I give to this football club and Collingwood know what they get from me.”

His love for the Magpies is clear, a second home for the defender whose father Peter played eight games for Melbourne in the 1980s and fell four games short of qualifying Maynard as the first father-son selection for Adelaide through his career in the SANFL.

Scott Pendlebury and Brayden Maynard lead the Magpies up the race before a game against Carlton in R2, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The love was tested last year though when there was plenty of outside noise about Maynard’s availability as the defender neared free agency eligibility, but it was quickly put to bed when he penned a contract extension, seeing him commit to the Magpies until the end of 2025.

“There was a lot of talk about me moving to different clubs, to Melbourne, there was that one rumour going around.

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“I was never, ever leaving Collingwood, they gave me an opportunity to play AFL and live out my childhood dream, so I owe them a lot.”

That gratitude towards the club that drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NAB AFL Draft forms part of the reason he’s baffled other players don’t sign on early.

Brayden Maynard shortly after being drafted by Collingwood in 2014. Picture: AFL Photos

Simply put, according to Maynard, if you want to be at a club, sign on.

“I don’t know why you’d want to hold out until the end of the year, I mean some players like doing that because they do attract interest from other clubs,” he said.

“I didn’t want to be anywhere else, so I thought, ‘why wouldn’t I just sign early?’

“And if you’ve got a good enough manager, he’ll do his job right.”

Scratching the midfield itch

Maynard is a no-frills player; keeping it simple and doing the team thing formed the crux of his pre-draft profile in 2014 and it still rings true today, but the itch to get into the Pies’ well-stocked midfield has always burned and it’s about to be scratched in 2022.

Collingwood’s most consistent defender will get more midfield minutes under new coach Craig McRae, a move that’s back to the future for Maynard.

“That was the goal, it’s something that I’ve loved doing, playing in the midfield and I played a lot of midfield throughout the TAC Cup and did quite well there,” he said.

“I got drafted as a midfielder … it’s taken me a little bit to build up that fitness and be game ready and fitness ready, but I can’t wait.”

It’s certain Collingwood fans will see Maynard shoulder-to-shoulder at centre bounces against the likes of Patrick Cripps, Jack Steele and Nat Fyfe this year, but it’s his match-up against a wily small forward that had the League, and Maynard, hotly anticipating their clash each time the fixture is released.

“Liam Ryan, he’s the one I like playing on most,” Maynard said.

The duo always have show-stopping moments, like the crunching bump Ryan laid on Maynard in the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final, or the time Ryan had enough cheek to goad the Pies defender with the ball mid-game.

West Australian newspapers build up their battle each time the Pies head west in a throwback to the golden days of Wayne Carey and Glen Jakovich, and like the Goliath pairing of the 1990s, it’s always a main event.

“He’s one of the hardest players I’ve had to play on and he’s got some many tricks and he’s hard to stop,” Maynard said.

“I’ve got him a few games and he’s got me; it’ll be interesting to see what happens this year.”

Giving back to the community

Maynard didn’t like going to school as a student, but there’s an excitement in his voice when he speaks about heading back to De La Salle College as an assistant coach in the school’s football program this year.

It’s a nod to what he hopes to do after his playing career wraps up and gives him something to do away from the rigours of being a professional athlete.

“It’s important that you do have something outside of footy to focus on, because footy is only a short part of your life,” he said.

He’ll take much of his teachings from the only senior coach he’s had at the elite level, and the lessons learned from Nathan Buckley will likely influence anyone who comes under the tutelage of Maynard.

“He always told us that we were enough,” he said.

“I loved Bucks, I learned a lot off him and he’s obviously one of the greats. I did have a really close relationship with him, and he grew as a person over time when he was coaching.”

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

Coming into his eighth season with the Pies he has genuine hope that the club will rebound from a 17th-placed finish this season, and a raft of changes in the off-season will help speed up the process.

“I think we definitely need to bring our DNA back, we’ve lost it over the last year and a half,” he said.

“I feel like we’ve brought the right coaches in to be able to create that and show that again … we’ve got the right coaches in to be able to push us forward.”

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Maynard has been so close too often, a close second in the best and fairest last year, arguably the unluckiest omission from the Therabody AFL All-Australian team the year before, and most notably, a kick away from being a premiership player in 2018.

But the trajectory Maynard is on could him take the next step in his career this season under McRae and break through as a bona fide star of the competition.

And that could just catapult him into contention to lead the Pies out onto the MCG in round one, 2023.

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