Former Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell says being an AFL player is a 24/7 occupation, as he prepares to play the final milestone game of a career that has generated contrasting opinions.
The Magpies’ 2010 premiership-winning captain will chalk up his 200th appearance on Saturday when the Magpies meet the Sydney Swans at ANZ Stadium.
Few AFL players seem to polarise opinion more than Maxwell, who doesn’t seem to get the universal admiration usually bestowed on a premiership-winning skipper.
The divergence of opinions about him was summed up by comments made to him by someone six months ago that have remained embedded in his mind.
“They said if someone thinks you’re no good or you haven’t played well or you shouldn’t be playing AFL, that’s one opinion,” Maxwell said.
On the flip side, Maxwell has earned plaudits from several AFL luminaries, including Mick Malthouse, Nathan Buckley and Robert Harvey.
“They are all of the other opinion that you’re pretty good and you’ve been able to play your role for the team.
“So one of them is right and one of them wrong.”
Maxwell felt players needed to be strong to carve out a long career due to the constant scrutiny that is part of the modern game.
“The way that players have to go about it these days, it’s a 24/7 job and I know how hard it is on all of the guys mentally and physically,” Maxwell said.
“We’ve seen that this week with Dayle Garlett, walking away from the game.
“It takes players that are immensely strong to be able to play for a long time, to be able to play a role, particularly with the different criticisms that come your way these days.
Maxwell recalled an incident early in his career that represented a turning point.
“I ran back with the flight (of the ball) and got cleaned up by Alastair Lynch and at the time I thought I was dead,” Maxwell said.
“I realised I was OK and got up, and to have James Clement and Shane Wakelin and Presti (Simon Prestigiacomo) all come to me and pat me on the head and say, ‘That’s great’.
“That was something that stays in my memory. To want to do it more, to put your body on the line for your teammates even more.”