It was revealed on the St Kilda website that Lenny Hayes, the 32-year-old and 263-game veteran, had successfully completed cardiac surgery to correct a leaking heart valve, a condition that was diagnosed early in the year, yet a condition that was not opted to be fixed at the time.

An interesting decision, it would be thought, as anything heart-related in the AFL is rare and would immediately cause concerns, especially with the high fitness levels of players nowadays. Just the mention of the word – in a medical sense – is enough to scare.

Yet Hayes decided, and noteworthy that it was during the final stages of his recovery from his knee reconstruction from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in 2011, that holding off the procedure until the end of the season suited best.

This was a courageous decision, no doubt. It sums up his style of football, especially when you note the breathing difficulties that the issue would cause.

A leaking valve essentially means that a small portion of the blood, when pumped from atrium to ventricle inside the heart, would flow back to the atrium in the direction it’s not supposed to. This means that to pump the same quantity of blood as a fully functioning heart, it has to pump with more force and more frequency.

And, if the heart can’t keep up with an increased workload, it leads to a lack of oxygen through the blood and muscles and increased as well as earlier fatigue. That’s without mentioning potential further damage to the heart itself from pumping too hard.

It’s a fair risk to take, and Hayes took it on in order to continue playing footy.

In his first game of the season, after the knee reconstruction and with a heart condition, he recorded 16 disposals and 11 tackles. That’s not a bad output.

From then on, he averaged 25 and 6 in those two fields respectively, and not to mention 6 clearances per game, enough to lead all the Saints in those categories. Every game, too – he was one of five Saints that did not miss a game.

It’s a remarkably consistent and impressive output, and although not reaching his lofty standards of 2009 and 2010 as he ages, it may very well be enough to secure him a third best and fairest. Even more impressively, it’s probably his best year outside of those two.

Not many can say that they’ve played with a life-threatening condition such as Hayes; fewer can say that they’ve outperformed with it. Hayes can, with overwhelming courage and dedication to the game and his club.

And, despite how difficult it seems for a man of his calibre, it entirely gathers more respect for a champion of the St Kilda Football Club.