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Saint Hayes heartened by AFL pre-season
Joe Barton
15:10 AEST Fri Feb 1 2013

St Kilda veteran Lenny Hayes says it will take more than off-season heart surgery to keep him out of the AFL pre-season cup - and he hasn't given up hope on extending his career past this year.

Hayes underwent major surgery to repair a leaky valve in his heart in September, but he insists it won't hinder his start to the season.

The 33-year-old says he's confronted the idea of retirement for the past few seasons but won't commit to a decision either way just yet - saying he'll rely on his body to let him know when it's time to hang up the boots.

But if open heart surgery won't stop him, what will?

"I don't know, I really don't know," Hayes told AAP.

"I was saying to people last year that I would wait and see at the end of the year how I was feeling.

"But I still love the game more than ever.

"I think eventually it probably will be the body that tells me. Because the mind (won't).

"I still love competing and training.

"I'll see if I can get through this year and then reassess at the end of the year.

"I'd like to keep playing but it just depends on where the club's at and where I am physically."

Hayes is no stranger to a scalpel, having had two knee reconstructions, including one during the 2011 season which he recovered from to play 22 games and win St Kilda's best and fairest last year.

But the words `heart surgery' were particularly confronting.

"I guess I couldn't really believe it," he said.

"I'd just come off my knee (injury) and I was getting fit again and then had the test done and they said I'd probably have to have surgery again.

"I was a bit flat, obviously, at the start. But once I found out a little bit more about it and learned it wasn't life threatening at all, it's a pretty standard procedure."

St Kilda begin their pre-season campaign in a fortnight against Adelaide and Port Adelaide, and Hayes is determined to feature from the opening whistle.

"I've pretty much been doing everything for the past two or three months," Hayes said.

"I've been doing all the competitive work, all the grappling, all the tackling and that sort of stuff. I'd be pretty flat if they didn't let me play after doing most of the training."