Leon Cameron has backed Stephen Coniglio to "play some really great footy sometime this year" as the GIANTS captain prepares for his first game since round three.
Coniglio is ready to return after recovering from surgery 13 weeks ago to repair a syndesmosis injury and reconstruct a big toe on the same foot.
The 27-year-old will play for the GIANTS' VFL team on Saturday night as he continues to build fitness following a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
"We're rapt that he returns. He just needs a week or two [in the VFL] to get his footy fitness up. But he's training really, really well," Cameron said.
"He's coming off two really nasty injuries and he's going into the game probably about 85 per cent. But what's really exciting is he gets to play footy again.
"I'm really confident that Stephen will get back and play some really great footy sometime this year."
Vice-captain Toby Greene has taken on the on-field captaincy in Coniglio's absence, leading from the front with 21 goals in nine matches as stand-in skipper.
The GIANTS had co-captains for their first eight seasons, before Coniglio took over as sole captain last year, and Cameron is pleased to again have multiple leaders at the club.
But the coach has also been impressed by the role Coniglio has played at the club even while sidelined.
"Having more leaders at our footy club is an unbelievably good thing," Cameron said.
"The stuff that we don't see behind the scenes that Stephen is doing is hard. He's been unbelievably good. It has been a great development year as a captain even through the frustration of not being out there.
"What you see of Toby on the surface on weekends is a lot of the by-product of how Cogs is helping throughout the week behind the scenes. So when he gets back and plays footy, all of a sudden we've got two very good leaders."
Coniglio's eventual return to the senior side will further increase competition for midfield places, which has started to heat up in recent weeks as several experienced GIANTS came back from long-term injuries.
Matt de Boer's influence as a defensive midfielder since his return in round 13, and zippy forward Brent Daniels' availability last week after recovering from a hamstring strain, pushed Tom Green out of the team for the first time since round two.
The strong NAB Rising Star contender responded with 41 disposals in the VFL to press his claims for an immediate return to a midfield group that has underperformed since the bye in round 12.
After starting the season with three disappointing losses, the GIANTS' onballers went on to win the contested ball battle in seven of the next nine matches and help turn their season around. But they have lost that count in the past two matches, including by 124-136 to lowly Hawthorn last week.
"When there are so many players in really good form then that's a great headache for the coaching staff to have. We don't have that yet," Cameron said.
"There are some mids that need to get a bit of a move along because since the bye our midfield probably has been a little bit up and down.
"I like that we've got competition for midfield spots because it means they're on edge."