Collingwood coach Craig McRae says he won't tell Brayden Maynard to alter his game in the wake of the controversial hit on Melbourne's Angus Brayshaw that divided the AFL community. Maynard and the Magpies are set to return for their first game since the qualifying final drama, when they take on the GWS Giants in Friday night's blockbuster preliminary final at a sold-out MCG.
Maynard was ultimately cleared of a rough conduct charge at the AFL Tribunal after collecting Brayshaw in the head with his shoulder in an attempted smother-gone-wrong that left the Demons player unconscious for several minutes. The incident sparked debate across the game, with the AFL indicating it could tweak its rules in the off-season around dangerous contact to the head of opposition players.
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There were initial fears that Brayshaw's latest head knock could force him into an early retirement, due to his history with concussions. Brayshaw was concussed four times in the space of 12 months, prompting him to take a break from the game in 2017. He has worn head-gear during games ever since.
The latest incident has understandably been tough on Brayshaw and his family, while also landing Maynard in the crosshairs of many angry fans, who thought the 27-year-old should have been suspended for the hit on the Melbourne player. All eyes will likely be on Maynard during Friday night's showdown against GWS, where the big defender looks set to lock horns with the Giants' All-Australian captain, Toby Greene.
Collingwood won't tell Brayden Maynard to alter his approach
Speaking ahead of the MCG blockbuster, Collingwood's coach is backing Maynard to maintain the "uncompromising" approach that makes him one of the league's toughest defenders. McRae says despite the backlash that the 27-year-old has copped over the Brayshaw incident, he won't be asking Maynard to alter his game.
"I steer away from telling players how to play to their strengths," McRae said. "We want to encourage them to be the best version of themselves and (Maynard) is a hard, uncompromising player.
"Unfortunately, that one just treaded on the line and Brayshaw ... I still hope he's OK. Two or three weeks later, we still care about the guy.
"We lose sight of that when we move on to the next thing but hopefully he's going well." Brayshaw missed Melbourne's semi-final defeat to Carlton under concussion protocols and would have been in doubt for the preliminary final had the Demons progressed, despite recent reports indicating he's been recovering well.
Brayden Maynard and Toby Greene set to lock horns
For Collingwood, Maynard looms as a key figure in the Magpies' defensive structure as they plot a way to limit the effectiveness of Giants superstar, Greene. The GWS talisman has kicked a career-best 64 goals this season, including three in last week's semi-final win over Port Adelaide - earning him the honour of being named All-Australian skipper.
"(Maynard) has a good record against (Greene) but he's a quality player and so significant in the way they're playing," McRae said. "They're in great form, so it will be a match-up to watch."
Collingwood are sure to go into the preliminary final full of confidence after thrashing GWS by 65 points in the only previous meeting between the two teams this season. One plus for the Giants is the fact Greene and key defender Sam Taylor were both missing from that round nine thumping with hamstring injuries.
"It's a long time ago ... so much has changed," McRae conceded about their previous clash. "They've won 10 of their last 12 or whatever it looks like and they're playing some super footy. We're going to have to bring our best defensive game to match their offence."
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