GREATER Western Sydney co-captain Callan Ward looks set to enter this season uncontracted beyond 2016, but it's expected the midfielder will ultimately recommit to the club long-term.
Aside from Sydney Swans co-captain Kieren Jack, Ward is the only AFL captain under 30 not contracted beyond this year.
AFL.com.au understands the Giants have opened preliminary contract talks with Ward, but both parties are in no hurry to finalise a new deal, comfortable that one will get done at some stage this year.
Ward, who joined GWS from the Western Bulldogs in late 2011 as one of the expansion club's uncontracted player concessions, has co-captained the Giants since their inaugural 2012 season.
Leon Cameron locked in
He has also been one of the Giants' most influential players, winning the club's 2012 best and fairest award before finishing runner-up in 2013 and 2014, and third last season.
Given his relative youth – he does not turn 26 until April – Ward is a key part of the Giants' long-term plans as they target sustained on-field success over the coming seasons.
It is expected he will re-sign for at least another three seasons.
Ward joined the Giants on a lucrative five-year deal, understood to be worth an average of about $800,000 a season.
The Giants last year re-signed a host of highly sought-after youngsters including Jeremy Cameron, Devon Smith, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio and Will Hoskin-Elliott, along with co-captain Phil Davis.
But it's believed salary cap space won't be an issue in the club's negotiations with Ward.
Like Ward, Davis joined the Giants on a lucrative five-year deal that bound him to the AFL's newest club until the end of 2016, but GWS moved early to extend his tenure, offering him a new two-year contact last March.
Fellow club captains Luke Hodge, Nick Riewoldt and Robert Murphy are only contracted until the end of this season, but the Hawks skipper is 31 and his St Kilda and Western Bulldogs counterparts are both 33.
Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury and Tiger Trent Cotchin enjoy the longest tenure of this year's captains, with both locked away until the end of 2020, while Joel Selwood (Geelong), Nathan Jones (Melbourne) and Travis Boak (Port Adelaide) are all contracted to the end of 2019.