Callan Ward walks out ahead of GWS' elimination final win over St Kilda in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AT 33 YEARS of age and with 295 games under his belt, Callan Ward has many a tale to tell about the caper that is AFL football.

But when it comes to the simple and pertinent question of whether his Greater Western Sydney side can actually win the 2023 premiership, he'd rather not expand on the matter.

"Yeah, we can, yeah. That's all I'll say about that. I think we can," he said.

Perhaps the short reply at the end of the interview was simply to hasten its conclusion.

Perhaps he didn't want to provide Collingwood with any further ammunition ahead of Friday night's monster preliminary final at the MCG.

Or maybe it's a subject he'd just rather not dwell on. The prospect of it may be too all-consuming to fathom.


For this moment that presents itself for the Giants champion, and the team he captained for eight years from its inaugural season, is one he thought had genuinely passed him by.

"Yeah, at times, definitely. You do think about that. I'm 33 and I'm getting on a bit. And you always hope to play in a premiership. There are definitely times when I was thinking maybe I won't, but now I'm very excited about what can happen over the next two weeks, but also the next couple of years," Ward told

"When you look at three months ago, we were sitting 15th on the ladder. We were still really positive about the year and we were hoping to play finals, but now we're actually in the prelim, it feels pretty surreal."

The last time GWS were in this position, in 2019, Ward wasn't a part of it.

An ACL injury cruelled the then-skipper's chance to lead his team out in a preliminary final, coincidentally against the Pies, and ultimately the Grand Final a week later.

Adam Tomlinson, Callan Ward and Josh Kelly after GWS' loss to Richmond in the 2019 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Four years on and the Giants' games record holder is in a very different position.

As the elder statesman at the club, he will always be a leader but the official titles have been relinquished and passed onto the new breed.

The warrior in Ward is still very much apparent, on-field.

Crashing into contests and winning his own ball. On average, 22 times a game and with four tackles per match from the halfway point of the season when the Giants campaign flipped on its head.

After being trialled at half-forward and named as sub twice while the team was trying to find its way in the early part of the year, he has bounced back magnificently.

He, like all at the Giants, is simply playing his role in Adam Kingsley's rejuvenated and rampant system, and that has helped rediscover his love for the game.

Callan Ward in action during GWS' win over Port Adelaide in the 2023 semi-final. Picture: AFL Photos

"I think I am (enjoying footy as much as ever), yeah. The last couple of years, I haven't played good football. And we've been losing as well. Winning always helps the enjoyment part of football, but I'm really enjoying my footy, yeah," Ward said.

"I think every player really has to play on the edge, and I feel like I do that. I think you have to treat every game like it's your last, especially when you're my age, just to try and hold that spot in the team.

"It frees you up a little bit. I'm not really part of the (leadership) meetings at all. Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Josh Kelly, these guys, they're doing a great job, they don't really need me anymore.

"I look around, I see so many leaders at this football club, and it puts a big smile on my face."

There is one leader who sits well above the rest though.

After the new coach wanted to end the co-captaincy set-up, Toby Greene has taken the mantle solely and run with it in spectacular fashion.

And that has led to the loftiest of praise from the man who held the role from day one at the Giants, alongside Phil Davis and Luke Power.

"I probably can't speak more highly of anyone in football at the moment than Toby Greene. Just what he does to play the way he does, but also for his teammates," Ward said.

"And how far he's come in the leadership space, but also his football ability. And away from football as well, his life, his professionalism, everything that comes with being an AFL footballer. He sets a benchmark. He's just amazing."

Callan Ward and Toby Greene ahead of GWS' clash with Fremantle in round 14, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A Greene mantra following the win over Port has impressed Ward further.

The All-Australian skipper labelled tonight's journey to a Collingwood infused MCG as a 'return home', such has been the Giants' success on the road this year, and their elimination final victory at the ground over the Saints.

"I like the message. I think we've done an amazing thing this year, winning at 11 different venues. We love travelling. We won there a few weeks ago. Historically we probably haven't loved to play it, but now I think we do. Playing away has been a huge strength of ours this year, so we are pumped for that," Ward said.

As brilliant as the Giants were against both St Kilda and Port Adelaide, and throughout the second half of the season, the Magpies' proposition is a different one altogether.

The belief at GWS is unwavering. They know their absolute best is good enough.

They're also well aware they'll need to produce it against the top-of-the-table side in front of 95,000-plus fans if they are to fight it out next week for the flag.

Giants players during the national anthem ahead of the elimination final against St Kilda in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's going to be difficult. Their strengths are all over the ground. We have to be really strong with our offence, to try and get through their defence and not allow them to take the ball from one end to the other. And in the contest around stoppages as well, that's huge for us," Ward said.

There's also the matter of the returning Nick Daicos. Greene alluded to testing the young superstar star out physically when he spoke with reporters on Wednesday.

Just like his thoughts on the Giants premiership chances, Ward is rather more circumspect on Daicos than his skipper.

"Everything I've heard of him, he's really professional, so I'm sure he'll come back in and play really well. I know last time we tried to play on him a fair bit, he had 41 (possessions). He's a super bloke," Ward said.