WHEN Nick Haynes sees the footy in the air he wants to get his hands on it, and that instinct makes him one of the best attacking defenders in the game.
It's why he was ranked sixth in the competition for intercept marks during the home and away season in 2016, and took more than any other player during last year's finals series.
So when Tom Liberatore launched a high ball towards the Giants' back 50 in last year's preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs, with scores level and less than four minutes on the clock, Haynes saw his chance to pluck it out of the sky and send his team forward.
Unfortunately for the rebounding backman, this time he wasn't able to drag in a grab – a rare occasion given he took 11 for the game – and the ball spilled to ground level where Liberatore got it back and pumped it forward to Jack Macrae, Haynes' direct opponent, who had slipped forward.
History will show that Macrae calmly slotted his set shot and the Dogs held onto win a thriller, and while Haynes told AFL.com.au he's thought about it, he won't be beating himself up over the split-second decision to fly at the crucial contest.
"There's obviously one or two things in a game that you look back on with regret, and I've talked to a few of the boys who feel the same," he said.
"Ultimately you make a decision and you have to live and die by the sword.
"I chose to come off my man because that’s how I play, and if I'd pulled down the mark it would have been great for the team, but I didn't and the ball trickled out and ended up with (Jack) Macrae.
"Leon (Cameron) didn't speak to me about it afterwards, I knew straight away after it happened and I think he saw that.
"There's a lot of instances in a game that can affect the result, so I don't dwell on that one decision, and you get over it pretty quick.
"All you can do is move on and hopefully more often than not you make the right decision when you come off your man."
The pain felt by the Giants post-match was only compounded a week later when the Bulldogs upset the Swans – the team GWS had beaten comprehensively by 36 points in the qualifying final – to win a fairytale premiership at the MCG.
"It was pretty hard watching the Grand Final," Haynes said.
"It was a bit different because usually you're excited watching on Grand Final day, but it was a real sinking feeling seeing the result.
"A lot of the boys feel the same and that’s what drives us this year and for the years to come."
Haynes had a late start to the 2016 season after off-season groin surgery but played a career high 18 games for the year, and was a standout member of a stable GWS defensive unit that included co-captain Phil Davis, attacking runners Heath Shaw, Nathan Wilson and Zac Williams, and the rejuvenated Adam Tomlinson.
The Giants' number seven pick at the 2011 NAB AFL draft hasn't missed a beat during his first full pre-season in two years, and revealed he's added 2kg to his frame to help him play a variety of roles in the defensive 50.
"I wanted to get stronger in the core and the legs, so I can play on all sorts of players," he said.
"Whether it's a tall or a small, whatever gets thrown at me, the aim this year is to have the strength to play on the big boys, but also the agility and pace to look after the little blokes.
"We've got easily 10-12 players that could play in defence at senior level so it's good healthy competition, and having so many options is only going to make us better.
"Zac (Williams), Nath (Wilson) and Heath (Shaw) are great rebound players, and Phil (Davis), 'Tommo' (Adam Tomlinson), and Aidan (Corr) are really good at locking down one on one, so I've just got to play a similar role to what I did this year."
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