GUN DEFENDER Nick Haynes says Greater Western Sydney’s mantra for this week is "we’re starting new", as the 2019 Grand Finalists look to bounce back from consecutive losses and indifferent form in the opening seven rounds.
The task won’t be simple, as GWS face reigning premier Richmond at Giants Stadium on Friday, in a rematch of the 2019 Grand Final that they lost by 89 points.
The Giants will then hit the road for two games in Queensland and at least one – but probably more – matches in Perth.
"'We’re starting new' has to start against Richmond on Friday night. Then we have a nice nine-day break to freshen up before we play again on the Gold Coast a couple of times. Then we can freshen up again before we head to WA," Haynes told AFL.com.au.
"There’s no doubt we have to start winning games, and it has to start from this week."
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The 193cm intercepting defender has continued the sort of form and influence that saw him nominated for the 40-man Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian squad last year.
Haynes has been producing the stats to support his All-Australian claims – being second in the League for marks, third for intercepts and seventh for rebound 50s so far this year – but was quick to play down his own importance to the Giants defence.
"My goal each week is to play my role for the team. If that ends up with any awards at the end of the year, that’s just an extra bonus," the former Dandenong Stingray said.
"The midfielders put on the pressure, and my fellow backs help me, so any recognition goes to them as well."
The 28-year-old was in the spotlight at the start of the round three tie against the Western Bulldogs, when Haynes – rather than captain Stephen Coniglio – met Marcus Bontempelli in the middle for the toss of the coin.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to unsettle the opposition skipper, who caught Haynes high and fractured his larynx late last season. But Haynes says there wasn’t as much to it as some people were suggesting.
"I was doing the warm-up, and 'Cogs' (Coniglio) just said 'go out and flip the coin for us'. I thought I might not ever get the opportunity again, so I went for it," Haynes explained.
"I ended up winning the toss but we lost the game. So, I guess it backfired a bit, but you win some and lose some."
Haynes was happy to admit that there is a strong rivalry with the Bulldogs, and it’s something that he and his teammates relish.
"Ever since the 2016 prelim, which was a great game to be part of even though we lost and missed the opportunity to play in a Grand Final. I think we both played great footy in the right manner, with tough, hard footy. I think that’s what has built the rivalry," he said.
"I’ve got enormous respect for the Bulldogs, and I think they do for us too. So, whenever we go out there it’s just a massive battle, and I always look forward to those games."
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Having a bye when they first arrive in Perth means the Giants’ fixture in the block announced this week isn’t as compressed as for some other teams.
But they will only have a five-day break between playing Gold Coast in round nine and Essendon in round 10, and games with consecutive short breaks are likely to come soon.
Like all clubs the Giants will have to adapt their approach and consider rotating players to deal with running loads as much as niggles and soreness.
Haynes acknowledges that sitting out a game when fit enough to play would be difficult for some players to accept, but says he and his teammates will follow the advice of the Giants fitness staff.
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"We obviously want to play every game possible. But if that’s best for the team, whether you’ve got a little niggle or are at risk of a soft tissue [injury], then you have to listen to the support staff," he said.
"I’d hope it would only be for one game out of the eight. But I’ll just listen to whatever the club says and do what’s best for the team."