GREATER Western Sydney's doubters might not agree with him, but co-captain Callan Ward believes his side remains a flag contender despite another off-season of significant list changes.
Star midfielders Dylan Shiel (Essendon) and Tom Scully (Hawthorn), ruck/forward Rory Lobb (Fremantle) and highly-rated youngster Will Setterfield (Carlton) all skipped out of GWS during this year's NAB AFL trade period, with Shiel in particular extremely tough to replace.
The Giants drafted some blue-chip onballers in last month's NAB AFL draft, but those teenagers will take time to become elite players of the competition such as Shiel and Scully.
However, while outsiders might think the GWS midfield unit has been weakened, Ward told the media he has "100 per cent" faith that his club's flag chances in 2019 remains healthy.
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"I have no doubt we're in the premiership window still," he said on Monday.
I still think we've got a really strong midfield, and if it's not the best in the comp it's right up there, and I'm really excited to play with the players we've got.
"I think there's a lot we need to do better, at the end of the day there's only one team that is happy with their season and that's the premiership team.
"That wasn't us and it hasn't been us yet and we're still striving to get to that.
"We need to tidy up a few areas of our game, and most importantly I think it's about our consistency over the whole season, but also in individual games as well.
"We've lost a few players, but at the same time it gives others a chance to step up.
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"We've drafted in some really good mids; they'll probably take some time (to develop) but it's great to have them here, and we've got some forwards who can play as midfielders too.
"I think the balance we've got is still really strong."
The Giants' draftees have been hard at work over the past fortnight, with Ward, in his 12th pre-season campaign, and the rest of the GWS squad back into training on Monday.
The veteran of 216 senior games said the first session of the new season is a great chance for the senior members of the squad to mix with the next crop of young stars hoping to make their mark.
"I've seen their highlights packages and they look really exciting," he said.
"I just want them to bring enthusiasm, and the one thing we've always liked at this club is guys that come in with a smile on their face and enjoy training.
"If they do that, I know they'll improve their football."'
With running machine Scully out of the picture, Adam Tomlinson was first home of the more experienced players in Monday's 2km time trial, with star midfielder Stephen Coniglio and defender Adam Kennedy not far behind the athletic big man.