OFF CONTRACT at the end of 2014, Greater Western Sydney defender Stephen Gilham has declared his intention to earn himself a new deal and be around when the good times start to roll.

Gilham made 14 appearances for the Giants last season, his first at the club, more than doubling the number of games he managed over his final two years combined at Hawthorn.

It was still an inconsistent campaign, however, with Gilham dropped on four occasions and conceding that he struggled at times adjusting to the game plan and his new teammates.

He also had to get used to losing, with GWS picking up just one win in 2013, in stark contrast to his seven years as a Hawk where he won 63 of his 98 games, including the 2008 flag.

But he won over his new teammates, voted into GWS' leadership group for 2014, and the 29-year-old is confident he has plenty of football left in him.

"I don't want to be here for the hard work phase and then miss out when the boys start winning games and playing exciting footy and we're starting to pack out our home stadium," Gilham told

"There's definitely a carrot dangling there that's going to keep me motivated to play my best footy and prepare the best way I can to get the most out of myself and play as many games as I can.

"I want to contribute to this club and reap the rewards of our hard work being put in at the moment to one day be successful."

Gilham's arrival last season came at a time when the club was screaming out for some experience to add to its bountiful stocks of young talent.

But it was also at a time when former coach Kevin Sheedy was well into his program of getting as many games into the fledgling list as possible.

With some newfound depth, a more established line-up should begin to take shape, and Gilham is anxious to stake his claim for a regular place in the side.

"It's a hard conversation to have," Gilham said of being dropped. "A couple of times it was the old 'team balance' sort of thing.

"That was something I had to get used to.

"A lot of times guys have been getting games when they haven't necessarily earned it.

"It was more because they wanted to get games into young players, which was fair enough too.

"Hopefully that balance starts to change and it becomes more like a normal club where you have to earn your spot.

"Competition for spots this year is going to be a bit different and the pressure is going to be on each week."

One of those areas where competition should be much more fierce is the backline.

With Chad Cornes ultimately ruled out for the year with a knee problem and Phil Davis sidelined for 10 weeks with a back injury, the Giants had almighty troubles shutting opposition sides down in 2013.

Yet with Heath Shaw and Josh Hunt now on board, coupled with the continued development of players such as Curtly Hampton, Tim Mohr and Adam Kennedy, the backline looks much better equipped.

"The facts are we need to be," Gilham said. "If we're not better, we're going to get scored against heavily and we're not going to win games.

"If we come up against teams that might have more talls or more smalls, that's what we have to combat, and I think we're going to be in a better space to do that this year for sure."

There was one other adjustment Gilham had to make once he joined the Giants – moving to a club with no history and into an area where AFL wasn't the No.1 sport.

Coming from Hawthorn, such an established outfit with a fervent supporter base, to GWS was a real eye-opener for the 192cm defender.

But he believes the signs are there that the Giants are making inroads.

"It's such a new club and there's no real culture and you're out in western Sydney, where we're competing with four or five different football codes," Gilham said.

"It's a new market that doesn't know AFL like the religion it is in Melbourne.

"That's probably the hardest thing about starting a new club in western Sydney.

"But the Giants are becoming better known in the community and we care about the people in western Sydney and hopefully they can get on board.

"I think we're coming to a really exciting time for the club.

"We can almost touch it and we're looking forward to an exciting year."

Twitter: @AFL_JD