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Hayes at home on big stage

Hayes runs long and finishes strong Will Hayes runs long and finishes strongly, winning this week's People's Choice Moment of the Week

After getting a taste at AFL level early in his debut season, Will Hayes wasted no time making his presence felt after a late-season recall. 

The 24-year-old toiled for five seasons for Footscray in the VFL to hear his name called out on draft night, before earning a senior debut in round five.

He played five games, before spending the next 10 weeks out of the side, and returned with a career-best 22 disposals and two goals against Essendon on Saturday night.

“It was nice to find a bit of the ball,” Hayes told AFL Nation. 

“I learnt a lot when I debuted and played five games thereafter earlier in the season, and to get back in the side and play my role and be a reliable teammate was a massive thrill for me.”

Hayes was among a host of impressive performers in the Bulldogs’ big win against the Bombers.

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Bulldogs leader Jason Johannisen said Hayes’ impact had been felt in his return, and hoped it was the catalyst for a strong finish to the season.

“That was his best game for sure,” Johannisen told RSN Breakfast Club. 

“The luxury of having Hayesy here is that he’s spent a lot of his time in the VFL, so a lot of the boys already knew him and had a relationship with him. 

“He’s a player that’s got silky skills, he’s got a big engine and he can run up and down the ground for the whole four quarters. His tank is such an asset for us. 

“Obviously the way he uses his run and uses the ball is pretty elite. Hopefully he can keep building and give us performances like that week-in and week-out.” 

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Hayes said the result – and the process to achieve it – had been pleasing, as the Bulldogs’ attention turns to big matches against GWS Giants and Adelaide over the next fortnight to push for a finals berth. 

“It was very, very smooth,” Hayes said of the Bulldogs’ ball movement.

“We’re constantly looking to improve the way we move the ball, but in terms of the game plan we wanted to execute, we pretty much nailed it so it was a very good performance by all 22 boys.

“Right now, we’re moving on from what was a great win and taking that momentum and concentration into GWS on the weekend. 

“We’ve got to focus on what we can control, and hope the rest takes care of itself.” 

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