Sport

GWS Giants defender Nick Haynes ahead of his team’s qualifying final against the Sydney Swans. By Jack Kerr.
Credit: MORNE DE KLERK / GETTY IMAGES

Among Giants: Nick Haynes, 24, Australian rules footballer

We put no limit on how far we can get this year. The expectations were to make finals, and we’re going to go into every game in the finals thinking we can win. In saying that, we know it’s a long, hard road ahead. Obviously we want to be playing in the grand final, but we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.

It’s always a fierce game against the Swans. They’ve got some big boys, like Lance Franklin. [Kurt] Tippett’s back. And they’ve got some good small forwards as well. We’ll go into the game [Saturday’s qualifying final] trying to control what we can control, and if we can win the contested ball, that goes a long way to winning the game. Obviously being finals footy, we’ve got to be up for the hunt. If we’re not, they’re going to beat us. We’ve had some good battles in the past. It’s going to be a big arm wrestle. 

I’ve ditched all the pre-game rituals. I had a few, like I had to eat baked beans before a game. Stuff like that. But I’ve cut all that out. All the superstitions, I don’t have them anymore. It’s made me a lot calmer, because then if I don’t get it done, it can’t mess with my mind and put me off my game. Playing in the moment and not worrying about them, that’s helped me a bit I reckon.

I’m loving playing in defence. The first time I ever played in the back line was the end of my first year at the Giants. Chad Cornes went down for a game and I had to fill in, and ever since that game I’ve played in defence. It took me probably about a year-and-a-half to really learn how to become a defender, because I was always a midfielder, or a winger, or at centre half-forward. I’ve enjoyed that challenge and I couldn’t see me playing in any other position from now on, to be honest.

Playing down back, it’s not just about sticking with your player. You’ve got to be proactive and help out your teammates. You’ve got to be switched on every second with where your positioning is. Every moment during a game, you’ve got to be in a certain spot. Communicating as well. I wasn’t much of a communicator and it’s taught me how to do that out on the field. There’s a lot of little factors that add up to trying to become a good defender. Forwards can get away with a lot of things easier. In the back line, it’s really highlighted if you’re off the ball a bit.

[GWS coach] Leon Cameron is very good one on one with people. He’s a people person. He’s as much of a coach off the field as on it. He’s got a good rapport with all the players, treats everyone equally. And not just the players – he gets around to all the staff, and treats them all the same. He’s a very humble guy, and treats people well. So I think he gets a lot of respect through that. All the players want to play for him.

We’re slowly transforming the inner-west and getting them to barrack for us. And I did a clinic about two months ago in Parramatta and went and got some lunch and had about five or 10 people come up and say g’day and good luck for the rest of the season. Definitely wouldn’t have got that five or six years ago – in our first year or two doing clinics in the west, not many people knew who we were. Our fan base is increasing. We’re definitely getting a lot of publicity and a lot of people know more about the Giants.

Starting as a new club, we’ve grown little by little each year. There’s that good core of us that were drafted together to the club five years ago, all just young boys, so we’ve grown up together and grown into men together. We’ve got that really good bond, and if we ever did win a flag, it would definitely be a very special moment.

We all know how good the Sydney Swans culture is. That’s what we want to form. They’ve been playing good finals footy for 10 to 12 years, and we’re trying to do that as well. The culture we’re trying to make is a good foundation for the club, and hopefully that holds us in good stead for many generations to come at the Giants.

 

This week’s highlights…

AFL: First qualifying final – Sydney Swans v GWS Giants 

Saturday, 3.20pm (AEST), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Horseracing: Makybe Diva Stakes 

Saturday, 4.10pm, Flemington, Melbourne

• NRL: Finals week 1 – Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys

Saturday, 7.55pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

• Rugby union: Wallabies v Springboks

Saturday, 8pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Tennis: US Open – singles finals

Women’s, Sunday, 6am (AEST); men’s, Monday, 6am (AEST), Flushing Meadows, New York

Rio Paralympic Games until September 19

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 10, 2016 as "Among Giants". Subscribe here.

Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.