He might not have the tallest stature in the club, but in many ways Stephen Coniglio really is the Big Friendly GIANT.
Described by teammate Devon Smith as “the lovey guy who gets along with everyone”, 22-year-old Coniglio is one of four new additions to the GIANTS’ leadership group in 2016.
With an ever-present smile on his face, the West Australian never misses an opportunity to ask you how you’re going, and is genuinely interested in the response.
The former number two draft pick has been an Australia Post AFL Multicultural Ambassador for the past three years and won the GIANTS’ Community Award in 2014.
“He’s very well respected by the staff and players and he’s a very respectful guy, as everyone would know,” Smith said.
When you ask him to describe himself, he pauses and thinks for a moment. He says he likes to have a laugh with everyone.
“I don’t yell as much as Phil (Davis), I’m quieter in that instance but I love to let me actions do the talking,” Coniglio told GIANTS TV.
“But I think you need to have those tough conversations at times and give each other feedback and keep each other accountable.”
After 62 games for the club and coming into his fifth season in the AFL, Coniglio has stepped up to the official leadership group this year alongside Smith, Dylan Shiel and Matt Buntine.
“I feel very privileged and honoured to represent our leadership group and us as players. I’ve been in the emerging leaders the past couple of years and to get a call up is a great privilege,” he said.
“It’s a big responsibility, just being an AFL player in general, and we should be grateful for the opportunity. For me it’s just business as usual trying to help others get better.”
The selfless midfielder is coming off a career-best season, finishing fifth in the GIANTS’ Kevin Sheedy Medal and performing some big jobs for the GIANTS.
Coniglio took on and beat Melbourne captain Nathan Jones and held his own against Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury, plus still averaged more than 23 possessions and five tackles a game.
He might not be the most vocal of leaders, but he sets a high standard and is constantly looking to learn.
He named new Leadership Coach and Premiership Captain Nick Maxwell a strong influence, along with Australian Test Cricketer and former GIANTS Football Operations Manager Simon Katich.
“With the inclusion of Nick Maxwell, he has put in some things we have done a bit differently this year,” Coniglio said.
“More things like our camp up in Noosa, we did a session at the army barracks and just situations where it’s not all footy and we do different activities with our leadership.
“Another I was very fond of was Simon Katich who worked with us over the last few years, just for a different perspective and how he went about his business and high-pressure situations on a national stage.
“Just drawing one or two things from everyone and trying to show it out on the field.”
The addition of the four fifth-year players to the official leadership group shows the growth of the club over the past four seasons.
“Although we might have seven in our leadership group now, when you look outside that group you’ve got Shane Mumford, Tom Scully, Ryan Griffen, Stevie J, Joel Patufll, guys like that … It’s great that you can have the one group and it’s starting to spread across the whole group,” Coniglio said.
“Ryan Griffen’s been captain of the Bulldogs and Cal (Ward) and Phil and Heath Shaw now. It’s great just to pick little bits and pieces.
“When you’re a draftee coming in now we’ve got our culture sorted out and you just fall into that and develop.”