Nick Haynes before the round 19 match between Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast at Manuka Oval, July 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NICK Haynes points to a scar on his hamstring.

"A lot of them were just little ones, but this one was a bad one," Haynes tells

"You can play through them and I did play through a few of them. (But) the one on my hamstring was the size of a golf ball and I probably shouldn't have played. I went to hospital for a week after that."

Haynes then motions a bit further up to his glute.

"This one got into my bloodstream and I was getting fevers and all of that sort of stuff."

Nick Haynes in pain during the round four match between Essendon and Greater Western Sydney at Marvel Stadium, April 9, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

There's another significant scar on his ankle.

"This one made my whole ankle blow up and I could hardly get my foot in the boot."

Haynes is talking about his staph infections. Last year, he played through 13 separate infections. Some were required to be cut out, others kept him sidelined from footy, a few he dismissed in order to play, but each one hampered his performance in some way.

Those health issues further complicated ongoing gut issues, something Haynes has dealt with throughout his career after developing ulcers in his oesophagus and a gastric reflux disease from anti-inflammatory medication used throughout his playing career. The staph infections were therefore another frustrating chapter in a difficult period.


For so long, Haynes had been a mainstay in Greater Western Sydney's best teams. A foundation player, his 204 appearances in Giants colours rank him fourth in the club's history for games played. He was an All-Australian, a best and fairest, renowned as one of the competition's best intercept defenders. Yet last season felt different to the rest.

An automatic selection in new coach Adam Kingsley's plans throughout the first half of the 2023 campaign, Haynes would finish the year starting in just three of the team's final 11 matches. He was shifted out of the backline to a wing, was made the tactical substitute four times, and only completed two full games on the field in that stretch.

Given the health issues he was battling at the time, you could forgive Haynes for wanting his fitness problems to be made known so the footy public could gain some type of understanding of what he was going through. The veteran felt differently, though. His health was one thing, but his form still wasn't up to scratch.

"It wasn't just that stuff in terms of why I was out of the team," Haynes says.

"I can't just blame that. We had a really good dynamic down back when Harry Perryman and Harry Himmelberg came back. They really liked that dynamic, so I can't just blame my health.

"It did impact me a little bit, but overall I needed to improve on my repeat speed and my quick feet and stuff like that. That's something I've really looked into over the off-season and it's something that I think I am improving at."

The uncertainty around Haynes' spot in the Giants' team led to some uncertainty around the veteran's future late last year, with the 31-year-old attracting interest from a couple of Victorian teams looking to pick up the final year of his contract.

Aaron Cadman and Nick Haynes look dejected after the round eight match between Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs at Manuka Oval, May 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

But the Giants left the decision in Haynes' hands and the club's stalwart never wavered in wanting to stay in Sydney. Recognising the trajectory of a young group under the widely respected guidance of a fresh coach in Kingsley, the prospect of a maiden premiership was too good to walk away from.

"My management group looked after all of that, just seeing what the go was with the Giants and with other clubs. But in the end, if it was my call, I was always going to stay," Haynes says.

"You talk about the opportunities of a premiership. I do think this is one of those years where I'll maybe have the best chance to win one. If I was to leave and we won the premiership, I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

"That's why I've put in the work over pre-season, doing everything I can to get into that team and cement my spot. I want to play finals and win that premiership."

Indeed, Haynes' efforts over the summer were recognised when he was picked in the Giants' starting 22 for last Saturday night's Opening Round victory over Collingwood, where the team showcased its September credentials with a statement victory over the reigning premier.

Nick Haynes and Brayden Maynard during the Opening Round match between Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood at Giants Stadium, March 9, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

In a team meeting last Friday morning, 24 hours before the game, Kingsley even acknowledged Haynes' outstanding summer in front of the entire playing group when revealing the final team for that weekend's clash with the Magpies.

Haynes is healthy again – he started seeing a naturopath over his summer break and hasn't dealt with a staph infection in almost four months – while he is back to earning his place on the park through his improvement in specific aspects of his training.

Now, the veteran – part of Giants teams that made the Grand Final in 2019, preliminary finals in 2016 and 2017, and semi-finals in 2018 and 2021 – can see glory on the horizon for the current crop. He believes that last year, which brought yet another preliminary final berth in Kingsley's maiden campaign, was just the start of their current journey.

"I remember going into the 2017 season, I thought that was our year," Haynes says.

"We'd just lost to the Bulldogs, we were still growing, it was our first big finals series. I thought 2017 was a massive opportunity. But if you look too far ahead, the AFL world will bite you pretty quick.

Kamdyn McIntosh and Nick Haynes during the Preliminary Final between Richmond and GWS at the MCG, September 23, 2017. Picture: AFL Media

"In saying that, though, I don't think our group has that mentality. We know we have to do the work and we're not looking too far ahead. But, at the same time, we do have that opportunity to really excel and play deep into finals. We're not shying away from that. I think we're capable of going all the way."

Now, Haynes wants to be part of it. Yes, he might turn 32 in a couple of months. And yes, he might be out of contract at the end of this current season. But he still sees plenty of good football left in his body.

"I definitely look ahead," Haynes says.

"You've got to plan for your future, both in football and outside of football. What I want to do after football, I've got to start planning. I'm about to have a kid as well, so we have to decide what we want with our future and if we want to move back to Melbourne or stay in Sydney. We've talked about that and obviously thought about it.

"My body, right now, feels as good as it has in years. I'm looking to keep playing after this year. That's my goal, at least one more year after this. I'll be 33 next year, but my body feels really good. At the moment, I'm just trying to be healthy and happy and my body is in a really good spot.

"If my body is still able, then I'm going to play as long as I can."