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Former Fremantle Docker Chris Mayne re-invents himself at Collingwood

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This time last year, Chris Mayne had been stamped.

He was an expensive flop.

The unrestricted free agent had left Fremantle to ink a four-year, multi-million dollar deal with Collingwood and was a long way off providing the country’s most famous club with bang for its buck.

It was part of the reason pressure kept being applied to Nathan Buckley as the spotlight intensified on the underperforming Magpies.

And by the time Mayne’s father launched a scathing public attack on Buckley in September, claiming the coach had thrown his son under the bus, Mayne’s rollercoaster career was again at the crossroads.

But the wheel can turn quickly in football and the 29-year-old has emerged from the dark times to put a difficult start to life at Collingwood behind him over the last month.

A new vegan diet and switch to the wing have helped transform Mayne into an important member of the in-form Magpies’ best 22 as they chase a third consecutive win in the former Fremantle sharpshooter’s first clash with his old side.

“Mayney was probably pigeon-holed a little bit by us and, I suppose, throughout his career as a pressure forward,” Buckley said.

“He hit the scoreboard regularly in that role, but his body shape is a little bit different to what it was at Freo a couple of years ago.

“He’s a little bit slighter. I don’t know exactly how much it is, but I’d estimate 3-5 kilos lighter.

“He’s definitely shown pace and a bit more explosiveness out of a contest.

“That’s credit to him and the work that he did over the pre-season. He’s prepared himself really well.

“He’s made the adjustments to what the game was asking of him and he’s executing.

“We’re very proud of the way that he’s handled himself and the fact that he’s been able to put himself in this position is well deserved.”

Mayne played just three senior games last year before being frozen out of the Collingwood line-up and playing out a season from hell in VFL ranks.

But he forced his way back into the team with strong form in the reserves this season and has played five consecutive AFL matches for the first time in almost two years.

His last four weeks in particular, after James Aish’s knee injury left the selection door ajar, have been impressive.

Mayne has averaged 20 disposals a match in that period — just the second time in his 180-game career that he has reached that mark over a four-week block.

And while even the most hardcore fantasy football devotees will concede that disposal counts aren’t everything, for Mayne, simply getting his hands on the Sherrin at the top level could be just the tonic to kick-start his career.

More importantly for Collingwood, Champion Data has Mayne ranked fifth for pressure acts at the club since his return to the senior side in round six and third among all wingmen in the competition.

“He’s really established himself on that wing for us,” Buckley said.

“He’s running hard, running good patterns for us and defensively we know how sound he is.

“He hasn’t misused the ball at any stage. His use has been good.

“He’s brought his wealth of experience and taken the opportunity from James Aish’s injury and run with it.

“He’s been first class and I’m really enjoying his form at the moment.”

Mayne’s defensive work ethic has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

“He can obviously attack well and that’s what he’s known for, but I guess you don’t get those defensive stats on the sheet,” Collingwood speedster Travis Varcoe said.

“Internally, he’s rated highly among the group.

“As long as he keeps doing that, then the offensive stuff will come and hopefully he can hit the scoreboard.

“At the moment he’s playing his role to a tee.”

A dual premiership player with Geelong, Varcoe has played five times against his old side for three wins since crossing to Collingwood at the end of 2014.

He had some sage advice for Mayne, who is about to go through the same experience at the MCG on Sunday against a club he played 172 games with over nine seasons.

“I always find it’s only weird if you let it be weird,” Varcoe said.

“You can build it up more than what it should be.

“But at the end of the day once the ball is bounced, you’re just playing a game of footy.

“If he just goes out with that mindset then I think he’ll be fine.”

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