CALLAN Ward is a proud man. Proud of his family, proud of his resilience to fight back from a ruptured ACL, proud of uprooting his life and moving from the cushy surrounds of Melbourne to Sydney when he was 21.
But he is also unfulfilled.
Ward, almost 32 and for so long the heartbeat of the fledgling Greater Western Sydney club, will play his 250th game against Richmond at the MCG on Sunday.
When reflecting on a 15-season career that still has chapters to be written, he kept coming back to one point.
"I'm not satisfied at all, no," he told journalists earlier in the week.
"We all play for premierships and team success.
"Every year I watch teams play in the Grand Final I think 'I wish that was me', so bad.
"I'm 15 years in now and I guess the main reason coming to the Giants was because I was confident we could play in a premiership, and I still am.
"Until I win a premiership I definitely won't be satisfied."
It was a sentiment he would hark back to numerous times in a 17-minute conversation. Not angrily, not regretfully, but with a tinge of disappointment – and a fierce desire to rectify.
Ward's milestone coincides with one for the Giants, almost 10 years to the day since playing their first game in the AFL against Sydney on March 24, 2012.
It's a journey Ward has been on since day one, following his move from the Western Bulldogs after four years and 60 games at the Kennel.
At just 21, the bulldozing midfielder had been to two preliminary finals with the Dogs and his move north came with risk.
He walked straight in as a co-captain with triple-premiership player Luke Power and fellow recruit Phil Davis, with whom he would continue to share the role until the end of 2019.
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"It's been a hell of a journey since then," Ward said.
"I wish I could have played in premierships, but I haven't, but I am still so happy I moved.
"I love Sydney, I love the football club.
"At that time I had a huge decision to make and I made the right one because I've got no regrets.
"I was 21, had moved out of home but was still living in the same area and getting home-cooked meals.
"To leave the state and challenge my lifestyle and grow up and mature, I think it really helped me in those early years.
"I still think over those first two years when I was a co-captain with Phil Davis and Luke Power, I had no idea what I was doing, but being put in the deep end and having to challenge myself and have to step up and grow as a leader and a player and a person I think it's held me in really good stead.
"I learned a lot over those first couple of years."
Ward flourished as a player in those formative seasons – although never quite satisfying his own lofty standards – and was a primary reason why the Giants climbed into the finals in 2016 and went to five of the next six post-seasons.
He was the ultimate model of consistency, barely missing a game in the Giants' first seven seasons and averaging close to 25 disposals as the club's younger midfielders developed around him.
That was until the ruptured ACL against West Coast in round four, 2019.
Not only did it cost him the season – including a spot in the Giants' Grand Final against Richmond – but also led to some struggles in 2020 with both his body and form.
"That was a frustrating year for me. Coming back with a knee, not much confidence and I wasn't playing good footy," he said.
"I was on the fringe of getting dropped a few times.
"It was a more frustrating year than 2019.
"When you're used to playing most games and not having too many injuries that keep you out, it does get pretty frustrating and you do lose confidence.
"When you're coming back from injury and the team in 2019 played in a Grand Final without you, you do start to think about 'am I in the best 22?'
"Then you come back and have those form issues and a couple of little injuries and niggles, you do question it, but I think last year I managed to play some good, consistent football and I'm still confident I'm in the best 22.
"I've got to keep striving to get better."
With his body "as good as ever" and Ward entrenched in the strong Giants' team, there's just one box left to tick.
Upon playing his 50th career game, Ward's father Greg told him reaching 50 was an OK career, 100 a good career and 150 a great career.
But the inaugural Kevin Sheedy medallist wants more.
"Everything we do right now, every pre-season we have, every training session we have, every meeting we have is based around playing on Grand Final day, winning Grand Final day," he said.
"It's the ultimate achievement, to play in a premiership.
"It's something I think about a lot, something I dream about.
"Something I'm so jealous of the guys who have played in a Grand Final, so jealous of them.
"AFL is so hard. That's why playing 250 games is so big for me because you know how hard it is to play one game, let alone 250 of them, and to play for 15 years straight is something I'm really proud of.
"We're all striving to win a Grand Final and that will forever be our target."