In this six-part series, The Inner Sanctum in conjunction with the GIANTS, chat with the club’s inaugural players. The men share everything from their first experience at the GIANTS, all the way through to what they hope is in store for the club’s future.
If you told Callan Ward 11 or so years ago that he would have been playing for an interstate club that was yet to play a season in the AFL, chances are he would have looked at you quite confused.
As part of the club's list build, they had to identify and target current AFL players to build a young team around. Ward was one of the few who was given the call and asked if there was any interest in moving to Western Sydney.
“To be honest, before they the GIANTS approached me, I'd never really knew there was even another team coming into the AFL after the Gold Coast, I was very naïve and didn't know much about it,” Ward told The Inner Sanctum.
“But then the more months and months that went on, the more I started thinking about the opportunity and I guess for me, I'd been in Melbourne my whole life, I was 21 but never really stood out of my comfort zone.
“I was kind of ready to explore something new and the more people I spoke to about the club, the more I saw it as an opportunity for myself to actually step out of my comfort zone but also to play in a Premiership.”
That step out of his comfort zone gave Ward the opportunity to co-captain the GIANTS alongside Phil Davis and Luke Power in the clubs inaugural season, before captaining with Davis up until the end of the 2019 season.
However, it was also the very thing that almost kept Ward away from the GIANTS as he was unsure if the responsibility of stepping up and leading a new side was something he was ready for.
“I really didn't want to be captain, and that actually almost threw me off and I almost said no to join the club,” he said.
“It ended up being [Sheedy] who convinced me to do it but looking back now, it was the best thing I ever did.
“It really developed myself as a person and I guess the reason why I decided to say yes in the end was because of that same reason that I really wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.
“I knew that if I didn't do it, it was the wrong thing to do by the footy club and to myself.”
Ward moved to the GIANTS with the prospects of playing in, and winning, a Grand Final with his side. In round four, 2019, he sustained an ACL injury that sidelined him for 12 months; meaning come September when his side beat Collingwood in a nail-biting preliminary final, he was unable to run out the following week to compete in the Grand Final.
Despite not having any physical involvement on the day, Ward said he watched on with pride as his side played in their first Grand Final.
“I think leading into that Grand Final, I was very jealous that I wasn't trying to play obviously but knowing early on that I wasn’t going to play probably helped.
“I was just proud of all of my teammates, proud of the club to see how far we’d come.
“I guess losing a semi and losing a prelim in years before that makes it all worthwhile when you can finally play in the Grand Final although the game didn’t go as planned."
Ward hasn’t looked back on the decision since and says that being a foundation player is something that will always be "special”.
For the meantime, Ward is simply living in the moment, enjoying each week he is able to put on the GIANTS jumper and run out alongside his teammates.
“I'll look back on it one day, when I'm long gone and it will be really special; it’s really special already,” he said.
“But now that I'm still in the moment, I’m trying to make the most of the moment.”
Ward hopes that he can say he was a part of the GIANTS' first 15 years of their history; something that will definitely keep the club's fans happy.
Regardless of those injuries during 2019 and 2020, Ward remains an integral member of the GIANTS midfield, with his career average for disposal remaining 22.7 across his 228 games in the AFL.
It doesn’t just stop there and the amount of times he gets his hands on the footy. Ward’s numbers continually remain above average to his opponents; kicks, handballs, marks… you name it, he beats it. Ward’s consistency comes from a love for his club and for wanting to remain a part of the GIANTS family.
“The people we've always had at the footy club always have been just good people; not just good at playing footy, or coaching, but just genuinely good people to be around.”
“That’s what’s kept me at the footy club as well as helping building a culture with all the other guys that are still here.
“Being part of that is really special to me and I'll cherish the opportunity we were given.”
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