STEPHEN Coniglio was the hottest free agent on the market for much of the last AFL season.
There were media updates flying around on what seemed a weekly basis, including virtual leaderboards on which club had edged in front.
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Coniglio's Giants – the team that made him the No.2 pick in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft – were always in the mix and eventually re-signed him to a lucrative seven-year deal.
They announced the 26-year-old as Phil Davis' and Callan Ward's captaincy successor just months later.
However, before all that happened, Carlton and Hawthorn were considered the leading contenders if he was to leave, while St Kilda presented a titanic offer, too.
A fascinating part of the process was that Coniglio's best mate is Hawks midfield star Jaeger O'Meara, who wanted to lure him to Waverley Park.
They are part-owners in a Richmond meat restaurant, Macelleria – Italian for 'butcher shop' – and both West Australian football prodigies.
"We're obviously pretty tight. I was really keen for him to come across if he decided he want to leave the Giants, and we wanted to be the first ones to have a look at him," O'Meara told AFL.com.au.
"We sat down numerous times over a coffee or a beer or whatever to talk about it, and it wasn't necessarily me trying to pester him. I was saying, 'If you need to chat about any of this, then give me a call'.
"It wasn't so much about me being from Hawthorn and trying to drag him to Hawthorn … it was just a mate chatting to a mate about how he's feeling and being a bit of a sounding board as well.
"At the end of the day, he was happy at the Giants. I think he's made the right decision for him and his family and got an incredible contract and one he thoroughly deserves."
Coniglio broke the news over the phone to O'Meara of his re-signing "a couple of days prior" to the announcement.
"I was initially a little bit upset, because I would have loved to play with him, but obviously I was happy for him to get that deal," O'Meara said.
Coniglio's on-field output – he's averaged 25.7 disposals or more the past four seasons, as well as kicking 42 goals across his past 41 games – was just part of the reason he was so coveted, according to O'Meara.
"He comes from an exceptional family and their values are unreal," he said.
"The Giants are lucky to have a person of his calibre, in terms of his leadership and the way he trains and prepares.
"He's a great person and someone who gets along with everyone, whether it be the best or worst player on the list, or someone in admin upstairs.
"He's across the whole club and gets along with everyone he speaks to."