Brayden Maynard was living out a boyhood dream.
The hamstring injury that ruled Pies captain Darcy Moore out of Rounds 23 & 24 was unfortunate, but it gave Maynard his opportunity to lead.
Grinning from ear to ear, he strode to the centre circle to do the coin toss. Then he trotted back to the huddle to deliver his pre-game speech.
Soaking in the moment, he led the Club as they confirmed their status as minor premiers.
And it allowed him to just do his thing.
“It (captaining) didn’t really feel too much different – the only difference was doing the coin toss and speaking pre-game which is something I’ll cherish forever,” he said.
“I had a big smile on my face and I wanted to deliver in the moment because I knew we’d be standing here and it’d be all over.
“Living in the present through that time was something I really focused on and I felt like I did so and it was something I’ll never forget or take for granted.”
Though Moore will return for Thursday night’s Qualifying Final against Melbourne, Maynard’s leadership, especially on field, won’t dwindle.
It’s the thing that has kept him sharp since being named vice-captain at the start of 2023, saying he feels more connected to the playing group.
And as the Pies head into another finals campaign, Maynard feels this personal and team growth from the “rollercoaster” of last season has them primed for their push for premiership number 16.
“I feel like last year’s finals we were running on heaps of adrenaline the whole year,” he said.
“Fly had been a first-year coach, we’d won 12 games in a row leading into the finals and it was a lot of adrenaline and a lot of emotion.
“It was a rollercoaster and we got to the finals and then we nearly won against Geelong, and we nearly won against Sydney so it was all these close finishes, so it was good to get a breather after Sydney.
“We know each other a lot more, we know our game style a lot more and we’ve been able to connect with each other a lot more, so I do feel a lot more prepared going into this finals series.”
Opening the campaign with a massive contest against the Dees is the perfect way to kickstart September for Maynard especially.
He has a family connection to Melbourne, with father Peter and brother Corey both playing for the Demons, but that doesn’t mean he has a soft spot for them, having led the charge in the two clubs’ rivalry in recent years.
“The last couple of years we’ve had a rivalry with them. We love playing them, they love playing us and there’s always a huge crowd so it’s great to be able to play them,” he said.
“First vs fourth it’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be on from the start to the finish and the team that can go harder for longer will win.”
For all the latest Finals’ news, videos, events and more, visit the Finals Hub.