I still remember hearing the news on the radio.
“St Kilda star Lenny Hayes is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.”
It was 2006, and I was still playing at Carlton.
Lenny lived about five minutes up the road from my place and I’d got to know him through a few of the St Kilda guys I was mates with.
The news shocked me a bit, so, I decided to go visit him to see if I could cheer him up.
I figured he’d be feeling pretty flat, so I stopped in at the local servo on the way and picked up a family size block of chocolate.
‘You’re put into this bubble at an AFL club and, in the click of your fingers, you come out 10 years later a completely different person.’
After all, who doesn’t love chocolate?
He was rapt to see me — a bit surprised, obviously — but still to this day it always comes up whenever I run into him.
He really appreciated it.
That summed Lenny up for me.
Not only was he a champion player but he was a champion bloke, as well.
He was just one of those guys you couldn’t help but love and that’s been pretty obvious this week when he announced he was retiring.
I’m starting to feel old.
All of the guys I played TAC Cup and got drafted with are starting to pull the pin.
I never got the chance to do that, which still bugs me, but it must be a strange and amazing feeling for guys like Jon Brown, Heath Scotland, Darren Glass and now Lenny who have done it this year.
Doing a lap of the ground like Glassy did a few weeks ago would have been pretty special and I hope the Saints do something similar for Lenny because he deserves it.
I remember when I first arrived at the Blues, Craig Bradley and Brett Ratten used to tell me to make the most of my time in the game because it will be over before you know it.
As a teenage kid who’d just arrived, I remember thinking to myself “what are you blokes on about? How good is this?”.
But they were right.
It goes in the blink of an eye.
At the start, you’re young and enthusiastic, with your whole life ahead of you.
You think you’ll play forever.
You’re put into this bubble at an AFL club and, in the click of your fingers, you come out 10 years later a completely different person.
It’s been a pretty amazing group of players.
But the biggest thing is that they’ve all got families now and that is no doubt their biggest achievement of all.
All of these guys walked into their club as teenagers.
Now, they’re having retirement press conferences with their partner and kids standing next to them.
Where did the time go?
This article was originally published in The Border Mail and can be accessed here.