Drafted with pick seven, Nick Haynes knew it would be a toss up between the Giants and the Brisbane Lions as to where he’d end up playing professional AFL. As he reflects on the 10 years he’s spent at the club, there is no place he’d rather be.
“I’ve loved the club ever since I got here and starting something new is pretty special to me,” Haynes told The Inner Sanctum.
Looking back to that first pre-season where the Giants trained on a baseball diamond out in Blacktown, Haynes said living at Breakfast Point together and the fairly average training grounds all influenced the club becoming a “family”.
“95 per cent of the club lived in Breakfast Point for a year… you didn’t think about it at the time, but that’s why our playing group is so close.”
Contributing to making their AFL debuts a smooth transition was the “high end talent” that was brought into the club.
The Giants recruited James McDonald, Dean Brogan and Chad Cornes, who Haynes said all had a pivotal role in creating that foundation at the club.
“Looking back now, having those guys really helped create a culture and values that we wanted to demonstrate when representing the club,” he said.
“Because honestly, who knows what a bunch of 18-year-olds running around with Phil Davis and Callan Ward captaining us would have done.
“But I think the club (recruiting the experienced players) was really important for just setting those training standards. Chad Cornes showed us how to manage our diet and to be disciplined, but then also being able to go to them for advice was invaluable.”
Haynes was drafted to the Giants as a forward, so naturally, he anticipated that his preseason would be dedicated to improving his skill in the forward line.
Coach Kevin Sheedy had other plans.
“Kevin’s first words to me were ‘you are going to play centre half-back in five years,” he said.
Haynes admits he laughed at Sheedy’s remark, thinking what on earth could have made him believe there was any sort of centre half-back traits in him.
“I thought he had no idea what he was talking about, and then it turned out I was playing centre half-back five years later.”
“He’s a bit of a genius in that sense.”
Sheedy’s instincts couldn’t have been any more correct in regard to the growth of Haynes.
Although it took Haynes a little longer to make himself known among the side compared to his drafted teammates in 2011, he now shares an honour only seven other Giants players had previously earned.
An All-Australian blazer that he was awarded in the 2020 side.
“In that first year, I was playing as a forward and was finding it a bit hard to fit into the AFL system and the demands of what AFL had,” he said.
“After working with some mentors in James McDonald and Chad Cornes, it took me about two to three years to really find my spot in the team and hold it.”
In 2014, Haynes broke his ankle. After enduring rehab and realising just how much football he had missed, he was hungrier than ever to get back onto the field. 2015 was his turn around, finally playing some really consistent football.
“After my rehab, I really seen those gains (in body muscle), and it got my hunger for the game, and I made sure I worked really hard.”
Being drafted at only 77kgs but measuring in at 192cms tall, the work in rehab was important to Haynes’ chances of success as a centre half-back.
“I think from 2015, I played some pretty consistent footy and cemented my spot. So definitely I would say the demands of AFL and not really living up to it, and a few injuries was what led me to those inconsistencies earlier.”
Haynes couldn’t be any more thankful to the club, and their willingness to stick by him in his earlier stages of his career.
In return, he persists on being a one-club player, and although his form may make him hot property in the future, he is comfortable in remaining at the Giants.
“My goal obviously is to win that premiership and to be able to share it with those people who started here with me would be extra special,” he said.
“I love the club, it’s a family club, a real humble club and all I have in my mind is that I would love to win that premiership because I’ve been there from the start.”
Stay tuned on The Inner Sanctum and Giants media platforms for the next instalments of Big, Big Decade.