It says much about Lenny Hayes that a player nicknamed the "Candy Man" for his ability to dodge the opposition, could end up finishing his career with the record for the most tackles ever.

More than just universally admired for his humility and courage, as a pure footballer, the St Kilda champion will be remembered as one of the best two-way midfielders of the modern era.

At least that is the impression he will leave on two midfield warriors he locked horns with in the past - Sydney star Jude Bolton and Western Bulldogs Brownlow medallist Tony Liberatore.

Liberatore is widely recognised as one of the most fierce tacklers the game has ever seen, while Bolton holds the record for most career tackles that Hayes will be quietly aiming to eclipse when he plays his 297th and final game on Sunday.

Hayes needs to lay eight or more tackles against Adelaide in his farewell match at the Adelaide Oval to overtake Bolton's mark of 1490, set when the Swans great retired last year.

The feat is not only achievable, both Bolton and Liberatore say it is a statistical honour in the game that deserves far more profile, given how much defensive pressure is now valued.

Hayes would have to tackle above his career average of five a game to clinch the record, but eight or more tackles is a mark he has reached eight times already this season, and twice in the past five weeks.

Contacted by Fairfax Media on Thursday, Bolton said he hoped Hayes "smashed" his record and was overwhelming in his praise for the level of consistency the 34-year-old has maintained since arriving at St Kilda as pick 11 in the 1998 national draft.

Hayes, a three-time best and fairest, has averaged 23 disposals over 19 games this year, the second most at the club.

And to ensure his legacy as an equally sound offensive and defensive player will live on, the three-time All-Australian has led the Saints this season for contested possessions and tackles - his two trademarks. Getting and stopping the ball.

"I've just got so much admiration for how he conducts himself on and off the field," Bolton said.

"It's no small thing to be able to hold your spot in the midfield your whole career, like Lenny has done; and his stats this year have been amazing," he said.

"He is still one of their most damaging players, so I think he's going out with plenty in the tank."

That Liberatore is the only player from his vintage – those who began their careers in the late 1980s – still remaining on the list of top 10 career tacklers is another reminder of just how highly the skill Hayes has mastered as well as anyone is viewed by his peers and coaches.

And Liberatore, a regular winner of the AFL "Chunky" Tackler of the Year award during his career, said the historical standing Hayes could achieve this week will only grow in importance in the future.

"I probably held the record for a long time and didn't even know it," Liberatore recalled on Thursday.

"But now, that's all coaches talk about. Defence is such an important part of the process, far more important than it was when I played."

In essence, the career Hayes has ground out as a two-way player – one good enough with the ball to win a Norm Smith medals and finish third in the Brownlow Medal one year, but also possibly recognised as the best exponent of the game's most primary defensive action – is the prototype for the modern midfielder.

"What Lenny has done for the last 15 years or so, that's the expectation of the modern footballer now," Bolton said.

Neither Bolton nor Liberatore could recall exactly what it felt like to have Hayes' arms wrapped around them – other than to say it wasn't pleasant.

But, for both men, one thing is for certain.

"He was just a real warrior," said Liberatore who played on Hayes at the start of his career, and the end of his own.

"I can remember having a lot of great duels with him. He beat me, I beat him, but either way you knew you were in for a tough day when you playing against Lenny Hayes."