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Melbourne Football Club

Maynard’s remarkable sporting journey

My parents said ‘are you sure’ and it took them a while to understand what I was going through, and my thought process and decision-making. But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made easily
Corey Maynard

ON AUGUST 17, 2016, Corey Maynard signed as a category B rookie with the Melbourne Football Club.

That meant he was signed by the club via the ‘three-year non-registered rule’, as he hadn’t been with any football club for the previous three years.

Remarkably, not quite a year on, Maynard will play his first AFL game this Saturday in the nation’s capital, after he was selected to play against the GWS Giants at UNSW Canberra Oval (aka Manuka Oval).  

Told of his news, by coach Simon Goodwin and elite performance manager Dave Misson at the club on Tuesday at 5.45pm, Maynard was speechless. But to all who had been monitoring his progress, it wasn’t a major surprise, as Maynard explained. 

“I had a pretty good game for Casey last weekend and Dad said, ‘you’ve been elevated and played well again – you might be a chance [to play for Melbourne] this weekend, and of course it’ll be in Canberra and not for Casey around the corner from home at Sandy’,” he told with a laugh.

“He said ‘we’ve been to Hoppers Crossing to watch you play, when you got knocked out, and then to Geelong and to all of the Casey home games and now the one VFL game that’s around the corner from home at Sandringham – you’re not playing for Casey’.

“So, they’ve got to go to Canberra now.”

Still, it’ll be worth the trip to the ACT, as Maynard has an incredible story, given the 25-year-old hadn’t played a game of football, at any level, against any opposition, from April, 2007 until March, 2017 – let alone just three years ago.

For the record, that game 10 years ago, was for the year 10 Sacred Heart Senior College team, when Maynard was living in Adelaide. And his first game back this year was on March 11, when he lined up for Casey Demons against Williamstown in a practice match at Casey Fields.

So, what happened in between?

Plenty. And if you’re not familiar with Maynard’s journey to Melbourne, it’s a fascinating one.

Born in Adelaide on October 7, 1991, Maynard and his family moved to Melbourne in 1999. He played representative basketball from a young age and combined it with football. 

After playing under 16s football for Hampton Rovers in 2006 – his last full season of football until this year – Maynard’s family moved to Adelaide, where he played his one school game with Sacred Heart.

“It was a pretty high intense footy school,” he said.

“That just wasn’t where I was at the time. I was trying to balance footy and basketball … but they love footy in Adelaide.

“I decided to give footy away – even though I loved footy the whole way through. But at the time, I needed to make a decision and basketball was going really well for me.”

During his basketball days, Maynard played for South Australia (under 18s and under 20s) and won two silver medals with SA at the national championships.

He won the 2010 Bob Staunton Medal for the most outstanding player at the national under 20 championships.

Maynard said, “it was the most amazing individual honour I’ve ever won to this day”. And it’s easy to see why, considering the likes of Patty Mills (2006-07) and Dante Exum (2013), who have both gone on to play in the NBA, have also won it.

From 2010-14, Maynard played college basketball for Bryant University in Rhode Island, United States of America, where he had “the time of my life”.

In 2011, Maynard represented Australia at the Summer Universiade in China. It was one of “about six times” he’s been to China to play basketball.

He returned to Australia to play in the NBL for the Cairns Taipans (2014-15) and then the Townsville Crocodiles (2015-16).

“After that, I signed a three-year deal in Cairns, but only stayed for one. I went to Townsville for a year after that with the Crocs and then they folded in April 2016,” he said.

“That opened the door for me to ask myself ‘what do I really want to get out of this and what direction am I heading in?’

In early 2016, straight after the NBL season, Maynard went to Finland and played with Bisons Loimaa. But it proved to be a short stay.  

“I was there for two or three weeks, and then I was burnt out. It happens a lot with basketballers, because you’re so highly strung on it from a young age,” he said.

“I’d dealt with a lot of stuff in the off-season – my pop had died when I was in Cairns – and I’d been playing with the Australian World University Games team and I didn’t really get an off-season.

“I went straight from college to Cairns, and then to all the mess in my first off-season, and then straight to Townsville. I could feel in Townsville that I was starting to burn out.”

Maynard said it was when he was in Northern Europe that he started to reassess his options.

“When I went to Finland, a few things happened with my visa and I just pulled the pin and I said ‘I think I’m done with basketball’,” he said.

“I jumped on a plane back to Boston and met up with some friends and then had a month in America, trying to get my mind around what I wanted to do.

“I came back home and the Crocs folded and I thought ‘this is crazy’. Then I had people talk to me about the prospect of playing footy – and it all went from there.”

Fast forward to now and Maynard will become the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to have played an AFL and NBL game.  

He joins Mark Lisle (North Melbourne), the late Michael Parsons (Sydney Swans), Shane Crothers (Geelong and Port Adelaide) and Dean Brogan (Port Adelaide and GWS Giants) as players to have switched from the NBL to AFL. Craig Moller, is the other one to achieve both, but in reverse, having played one game with Fremantle, before crossing to the NBL.  

Furthermore, Maynard will continue a strong family connection in the VFL/AFL.

His father Peter played eight games for Melbourne from 1980-81, before he moved to the SANFL, where he played 216 games with Glenelg and Woodville West Torrens.

Corey’s younger brother Brayden plays with Collingwood and has notched up 47 matches since 2015.

Interestingly, had Peter played 200 SANFL games before the 1991 season – he was on 196 – Brayden could’ve qualified as Adelaide’s first father/son selection. Under AFL rules, players who reached 200 SANFL games before Adelaide’s first AFL game in 1991 were eligible to play for the Crows under the father/son rule.

Corey’s grandfather, Graham Campbell, played 151 matches for Fitzroy and won the club’s 1957 best and fairest. Campbell also played in Fitzroy’s 1959 night premiership and coached the Lions’ 1978 night flag.

So, when you consider his background, it’s not surprising Maynard was lured back to football.

“I remember having a meeting in this room [in the football department at AAMI Park] about five years ago with [national recruiting manager] Jason Taylor. I told him – and I meant it, when I said at the time – that if I ever come back to footy, I want to play for Melbourne,” he said.

“I was about 20 [years old] at the time and I was back from my second year of college. Jason told me where the club was heading and I told him ‘my dad played here and I couldn’t imagine myself playing for any other AFL club – I want to play for Melbourne’.

“I think he was a bit dirty on me when he found out I’d been speaking to Essendon about this time last year. When that [news] came back, I was rapt that Melbourne was still interested, which I didn’t know. I thought the door had closed here, but it hadn’t and it’s been an amazing turnaround.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.”

Maynard said “a few” clubs were interested in his services, during and post his basketball career.

“I was really close with David Noble (now at the Brisbane Lions) and Hamish Ogilvie at the Crows. They came over to the US when I was in my third year of college [basketball],” he said.

“I caught up with them regularly and they’ve done awesome things with [former cricketer] Alex Keith and [former basketballer] Hugh Greenwood. I was really close to going to Adelaide on numerous occasions. They were probably the other major team that I was interested in going to.

“It would’ve added another interesting dynamic if Dad had have played four more games and Brayden would’ve been eligible as a father-son for the Crows. If he was there, it might’ve been a different decision.”

Last weekend, Maynard was Melbourne’s travelling emergency for its clash against North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena in Hobart. Upon reflection, he said it was an important step in his preparation for this round.  

“I’ve done a lot of travelling in basketball, so it was a really good stepping stone to get a feel for what the overall vibe was like. It was a bit of a weird feeling having to get stopped at the barrier and not run on the ground, but it was an awesome experience before playing my first game,” he said.

“But if you told me I was going to be here a year and a half ago – it wasn’t really on my radar. Even this time last year, it was like a snap, gut instinct decision that I made.  

“My parents said ‘are you sure’ and it took them a while to understand what I was going through, and my thought process and decision-making. But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made easily.”