Nick Haynes, the player

Shelley Haynes, Nick's mum “To play football was never a huge childhood dream for Nick. He never spoke about it being the only thing he wanted; he was never living just for that moment of being drafted. He went up to Sydney and he was 19, but in my mind he was still a young boy. What I’ve seen is not only a change in him physically over the years, but he’s developed this strong belief, a really strong sense of who he is and what he wants to achieve. He’s matured in that way, he’s found his voice and I think that came as he started to believe he deserved to be there and deserved to be part of the team. Nick is all about belonging; once he feels like he belongs then you get the best out of him, and that was the same with all his sport growing up. I remember one piece of advice he got early on was that, if the coach is talking, don’t stand up the back, make sure you’re there saying ‘here I am.’ That was difficult for him, to impose himself, but at the same time Nick doesn’t wait. That sense of belonging is something that he looks for and wants, and something I’ve seen him work really hard for.”

Mark McVeigh, Nick's long-time backline coach: “Nick is a professional. He’s very much in tune with his own body; he knows exactly what he needs in terms of training, and recovery, and everything else. Every club has those sorts of players, but not many have it worked out like Nick does. He’s not the type of player you ever want to spray; he’s the type where you look at him, take him through it and package up the vision, because he really wants to see what it is. You don’t need to be demonstrative with Nick because that will never get the best out of him. He’s an amazing player to have in the backline because he covers the ground really, really well and although people think of him as a drop-off marking type, which is he, he can go and cover off on so many different types of players, from Tom Papley to Jordan De Goey, to all the tall forwards. He can play on anyone. He’s super smart, he reads the play well and this might sound a bit weird but he’s the best player I’ve ever seen at picking the ball up straight-legged. Most people have to get low and pick it up, but he does it upright and I’ve never seen anyone else do it. He thinks about his footy a lot, he gives you great ideas, he can think through situations and he loves to talk things out. He’s a pleasure to coach and I’m really proud of where he’s got to.”

Adam Kennedy, Nick's friend, teammate and housemate: “He’s one of my favourite people to play with, and I’m not just saying that because he’s one of my best mates. He’s super courageous and I think that can get taken for granted because he’s like Cal Ward; he puts himself in those situations so many times in a game that he can half make it look easy. It’s just what he does. We have a whole backline that scraps and fights until the end, and I think Hayner is the one who leads the charge with that. We can be in a bit of strife and he’ll just be there saving the day for us. He knows the game really well, he’s pretty analytical when it comes to footy, and what a lot of people don’t see is how well he prepares himself for games, how much he does to recover from all those knocks he gets. And something I witnessed early on was his anxiety, how that affected him as a young player and how he found a way through that with the meditation and mindfulness and everything else he does. He sought that out, he took that on and it’s the way he lives now, he’s in the moment and I’ve loved seeing that. He makes things look easy at times but he’s a player who fights and claws for everything, he’s humble about everything he achieves and he’s there every time we need him. As a teammate, how can you not love all that?”

Nick Haynes

Nick Haynes, the person

Shelley Haynes: “He’s humble. He’s the quiet achiever. He just goes about his business and doesn’t want to bring much attention to himself. I remember telling his mates after the draft that if he ever got ahead of himself then they had permission to pull him back down to earth, but I don’t think anyone has ever had to do that. He’s a private person, but I think that when you get into conversation with Nick, it can become a really deep conversation. And maybe they’re conversations we wouldn’t have had if he had been drafted to a Melbourne club and we didn’t have to make the same effort to talk and spend time together. He has strong beliefs and he’s someone who really understands who and what are important to him. He extracts what he needs and he finds solutions, he searches for them. To read and hear him talk about the anxiety he suffered as a young player was hard as a parent. I remember saying to him ‘is there anything I could have done differently?’ and he said ‘no mum, you just being you is enough, the rest was up to me.’ It was difficult, but at the same time, he worked through it and found a solution. And I think that’s who Nick is. He’s very solution-oriented. If there’s a problem he has to find the fix, and to read about that and hear him talk about that, and what meditation has done for him, it’s been quite powerful.”

Mark McVeigh: “I call him the Lone Wolf because he comes in, he’s very quiet and he just goes about his business. He wanders around and you look at him and think, I wonder what he’s thinking about at the moment, what’s going through his head? So he’s reserved and quiet, but he’s a really good person. I see him as a very caring person. He has that nice balance where footy isn’t everything to him. It’s important to him but he wants to think about other things and do other things. He sees the world uniquely and when you do sit and get into a conversation with him you can delve really deep and he’ll get you thinking about the world a bit differently. Like I said, because he’s quiet you can get surprised when you find out what’s in his head. He’s someone I have a lot of time for, and I will for years to come.”

Adam Kennedy: “I’ve lived with him for six or seven years now, so he mustn’t hate me which is good. He’s an interesting one and people are always asking me what Nick Haynes is like, because you don’t see much of him through social media, or interviews, or anything like that. People are really curious about him. He’s pretty private, but that’s only until you’re in his inner circle, whether it’s his friends, family, his girlfriend or the guys at the club. And once you get to know him he actually has plenty to say. For a quiet guy who likes meditation and having his own time, the FOMO for him is real. He doesn’t like missing out and he likes to have his say, in his own way. And he’s a bit of a thinker, too. His head is literally in the sky. He’s crazy about space and the universe and if you ever want to see a different side of him, just start talking about human beings and what even are we and are we really just dust in the universe. He gets too into it, he gets really passionate and once he’s up and going he pulls out videos to show you about the earth and the universe and all its dimensions. He jumps on a few conspiracy theories too, he thinks aliens are running America. He’s definitely his own person, he’s not a follower and if he finds something interesting he’ll have a look, work out what he thinks and go with it. And he’s a good friend. He will never ever pump himself up, so for him to reach 150 is pretty cool.”

02:07 Mins
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A Week With: Nick Haynes

Life in Lockdown is very different to the routine of a professional footballer but it has also provided opportunities. Includes a special sneak peak at Nick Haynes' GIANTS documentary.

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Nick Haynes, in the future

Shelley Haynes: “He has got a bit of a creative mind. He’s into his video production, and he was into that back when he was doing his skimboarding as a kid, putting music to his videos and stuff like that. I think he could coach if he wanted to; he’s very analytical about the game, but I’m not sure that’s a passion for him. He was an apprentice electrician before he got drafted but I don’t know that he’ll go back to that. I know that when he was working on his documentary about the GIANTS he was really, really dedicated to the process, really thoughtful about what he was doing, every last little bit of it: all the cutting and pasting, all the music he wanted to go with it, all the little choices he had to make along the way. He really showed a lot of care and passion for that project. I think that’s what he could go with.”

Mark McVeigh: “The world is his oyster, really. He has many talents. I could see him getting into the filmmaking and doing some good things there. He’ll probably never coach, but I see him as someone who could actually coach the little facets of the game really well. I think he’d be a fantastic mentor for young people on how to prepare and how to use your mind. He’s a bit spiritual and very in touch with mental preparation and what he needs to do. I think he’d be a great mentor of young people coming through, whether that be in AFL or some other part of life.”

Adam Kennedy: “I can tell you one thing he shouldn’t do, and that’s go back to being a sparky. For one thing he’s colour blind and can’t tell which wire is which. And when he came up after the draft he told us all he’d spent the year as a sparky earning six bucks an hour. But in that first year I had a problem with a light bulb in my room and it stayed like that for the rest of the year because he had no idea how to help me. I reckon what he might do is go down the documentary path. He’s really into that and he’s really good at that, it’s a passion for him. He’ll tell you he will never, ever be a coach, but I can honestly see him staying in football. He thinks about the game more than people would know. He’s one of those guys who looks all blasé and like he just goes out and does it, but he’s the opposite. He studies game plans, he knows all the other teams, he has ideas and thinks things through, more than some of the guys at the club would even know. He’ll have other plans, but I think he could be a really good development coach if he did decide he wanted to stick around.”