ST KILDA will offer Jack Hayes a contract extension sooner rather than later to put his mind at ease after the mature-age recruit suffered a suspected ACL tear in Friday night's win over Greater Western Sydney at Manuka Oval.
The 26-year-old was substituted out of the game at quarter-time after his left knee buckled under him in a marking contest with Nick Haynes.
Hayes tried to play on but quickly knew something wasn’t right and left the ground within 30 seconds, before undergoing a test with St Kilda's doctors in the rooms at the first break.
The South Australian has been one of the best stories of the season so far, grabbing his opportunity in the early stages of the season after being overlooked by recruiters for a long time, despite dominating for Woodville West-Torrens in the SANFL for the past few seasons.
Saints coach Brett Ratten said the club will put a deal in front of Hayes quickly to allow him to focus on his rehabilitation without the stress of worrying about his future.
"We'll have a conversation with him ASAP," Ratten said in his post-match press conference after the 17-point win at Manuka Oval.
"We want to take away any of the anxiousness and allow him to go into this ACL rehab process knowing what the future looks like. He doesn’t have to worry about that, he can just get to work and do what he does. We'll look after him and talk to him about that."
St Kilda moved to 5-1 for the first time since 2010 after winning a fifth straight game for the first time since 2011, but Ratten said it was difficult to enjoy the victory after losing a player who has made such a splash since being added to the list at the start of March.
"(It is) probably mixed emotions. We came to Canberra to win the game and get the four points. I thought our second half was very, very encouraging. When you have someone like Jack Hayes – what a great person – what he has done in a short term out our footy club, for him to do an ACL, I think the mood is a little bit up and down," he said.
"Jack's a great introduction to our footy club with the way he's gone about it. He'll have the ACL treatment and recovery and be at our footy club for a long time. For us to look after him now and make sure he gets through this stage and gets ready for next year. We'll be there with him and with our arm around him."
St Kilda signed Hayes at the start of March ahead of the pre-season supplemental selection period deadline, after inviting the key forward-ruckman to trial for the vacant spot in December.
Hayes kicked three goals from 18 disposals and 10 marks in a remarkable debut against Collingwood in round one that left many recruiters scratching their heads.
Despite being recruited to provide depth in the event a ruckman or key forward went down, Hayes has forced his way into St Kilda's 22 much sooner than first thought, playing five of the first six games.
Now one of the great stories of the first part of the season is facing the rest of 2022 on the sidelines in a devastating blow