GREATER Western Sydney won't rush Stephen Coniglio back into its senior side this week as the Giants look to consolidate their place inside the top eight.
The Giants surprised Melbourne to win at the MCG last week and on Sunday will face Gold Coast at Mars Stadium in Ballarat.
But they'll head there without Coniglio, who returned to play in the VFL last week after a long absence with an ankle injury and gathered 17 disposals and 11 tackles. Coach Leon Cameron said the Giants midfielder will have another week at state league level before being ready for a senior spot.
"We had a planned return for him, he played 63 per cent game time last week, he ran about 10kms, which was good. He had a fair bit of the footy and his tackling pressure was fantastic, and as the game went on it looked like he got more comfortable with it," Cameron told AFL.com.au.
"We'll play him up to 80 per cent this week [in the VFL] and give him a great opportunity to play another really good game of footy. We were rapt with his first week and clearly he needs a little more match fitness and it puts him in a position to start to be considered back at AFL level."
Coniglio is likely to push for AFL selection next week against the Swans, although the AFL is yet to confirm where the game will be held given the ongoing lockdown in Sydney.
There is a possibility of the game being staged in Canberra, but Cameron said the club had received no firm indication as yet.
Defender Sam Taylor is set to return from injury to replace Jack Buckley, who will miss 12 months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, while key forward Jesse Hogan will also be considered in what shapes as a crucial fortnight for the Giants' finals hopes as they sit in eighth position.
"People know it's there and we sit in the eight for only the second time this year. It's not as if we've been hovering in there all year," Cameron said.
"The priority is the Suns on Sunday but people will be silly to think that if you're not winning you deserve to be in there so we're under no illusions this weekend is a massive game for us and every weekend is a massive game for us. We can't put a foot wrong."
LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?
The extended time in Melbourne has allowed many of the Giants' Victorian-born players to spend more time with their families, with out-of-contract restricted free agent Josh Kelly among them.
Kelly has the option of activating an eight-year deal worth around $8 million or testing the free agency market, with North Melbourne again interested in the midfielder. But Cameron said he remained confident the former No.2 pick would recommit to the club.
"Josh is such a professional and he’s been through it so many times. Whether he's seen mum and dad and it helps that, it's a hard one to answer," Cameron said.
"I've always been really strong on it. He's clearly playing great footy, which is his main role, but his leadership behind the scenes has been absolutely exceptional.
"All of that adds up to him staying at our football club. I've been confident from the start and I still remain really confident that he'll be at our footy club."