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Stephen Coniglio to captain Giants against Bulldogs in NAB Challenge

Adam Curley  February 24, 2016 3:50 PM

Ruck confusion, star Crow to re-sign Nat Edwards and Matt Thompson with your latest footy news
AFL 2016 Portraits - GWS Giants

Stephen Coniglio is set to captain GWS against the Dogs

I think it's great for me to be able to learn off such different types of leaders in our group

GREATER Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron has labelled stand-in skipper Stephen Coniglio the ultimate team man.

Coniglio will captain the Giants in Thursday night's NAB Challenge clash against the Western Bulldogs, with regular leaders Callan Ward and Phil Davis rested for the side's opening match. exclusive: Inside the Giants

Experienced Giants such as Heath Shaw, Ryan Griffen and star recruit Steve Johnson also failed to make the trip to Canberra.

Cameron said the West Australian's outstanding leadership qualities and hard-nosed playing style made him an ideal candidate to fill in for Ward and Davis against the Dogs.

"Stephen Coniglio has addressed the areas he needs to address as a player and he knows how he needs to get better as an individual," Cameron said in Canberra.

"But he also wants to take on the added responsibility of (saying) 'how do I get the person beside me up to speed? How do I get my team up to speed? I want to take responsibility for where this team is going'.

"He has a good demeanor with the coaches and players, he's well respected, he's hard at it and puts his head over the footy.

"He leads by example, he tackles and he's an ultimate team man.

"I think it's just great for Stephen to have that opportunity and responsibility of captaining the side for the first time in an official AFL game."

Coniglio, 22, was the club's No.2 draft pick in 2011 behind Jonathan Patton after a stellar under-age career in WA where he mixed football with cricket. 

The gun on-baller debuted for WAFL club Swan Districts in 2010 as a 16-year-old and booted four goals in a stunning premiership win later that year. 

Cameron said that the Giants' 2016 leadership group would be announced after the NAB Challenge, with this announcement a sure sign that Coniglio will be involved for the first time. 

The popular midfielder said it was a huge honour. 

"It was humbling when Leon (Cameron) asked me last week if I was keen on the idea, and I was rapt too," Coniglio said. 

"I think it's great for me to be able to learn off such different types of leaders in our group. 

"The difference between Phil (Davis) and Heath Shaw and Callan Ward - it's been great to take a step back and learn a few things." 

Coniglio, along with fellow emerging leaders Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel, has been mentored by former Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell over summer as the Giants strive to elevate the leadership of their 105 year players.

The Giants' chances of a maiden finals berth in 2016 and premierships in the future rely heavily on the shoulders of Coniglio, Shiel and Smith, along with the likes of star forward Jeremy Cameron, key defenders Davis, Nick Haynes and Aidan Corr, plus midfielders Ward, Tom Scully and Lachie Whitfield.

Maxwell has spent a lot of one-on one time with Coniglio since he started with the club last November, and has already had an impact.

"The main thing Nick (Maxwell) pushes is the standards amongst the group," Coniglio said.

"He'll be the first to admit that he wasn't the most talented player going around, but always pushed the standards amongst the group (at Collingwood). 

"He challenges you and puts in on you, and I guess it just fast-tracks your learning in a way."