IT IS 10 years since Greater Western Sydney played its first game against Sydney at Stadium Australia. The Swans got the job done then, just like they did on the weekend, but plenty has transpired since then in western Sydney. 

While rugby convert Israel Folau is long gone, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Phil Davis, Callan Ward and Adam Kennedy all played in round one 2012 and all still call this neck of the woods home. 

New recruit Jarrod Brander became the 113th player to wear the orange and charcoal in last weekend's season-opener, while former skipper Callan Ward is set to play his 250th game this weekend, adding 189 to the 60 he played for the Western Bulldogs before he became the second player to sign with the Giants. 

To mark the milestone, AFL.com.au has picked the 10 most valuable – rather than just best – players to ever play for Greater Western Sydney. 

The Giants ahead of their first ever game against Sydney on March 24, 2012. Picture: AFL Photos

Assessing the best players, doesn’t take into account what a player brings off-field in terms of building a culture from scratch and leadership. When it comes to the Giants, this is significant given this is a club built from nothing in rugby league heartland. 

And for a club that has had to tackle retention issues for the duration of its existence, loyalty is a value that makes some of these players even more valuable.

10. NICK HAYNES (166 games)

Another top-10 pick who has made his mark on the game in western Sydney. The ever-reliable defender is set to resume his AFL career this weekend after overcoming a stomach issue over the past month. Haynes went under the radar south of the border for some time until he stamped himself as one of the best defenders in the game in 2020 when he was named All-Australian for the first time and won the Kevin Sheedy Medal. But he was doing it well before then. He finished fourth in the best and fairest in 2019 – the year he helped lead the Giants to the big dance – and fifth the year before then. There is no doubt Haynes would have a bigger profile if he did more media, but he has content letting his business do the talking for him. And that is part of the reason why he is so highly regarded inside the four walls of the Giants. 

Nick Haynes looks on at Giants training on February 9, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

9. PHIL DAVIS (170 games)

The first player to publicly commit to the AFL's youngest franchise has been there since day dot, leading the charge on-field and off-field as one of the faces of the club. If you're only as good as your last performance, Davis' effort against Lance Franklin in round one was a timely reminder of just how good he has been as the key defensive post for a decade. While almost every other name on this list is more talented, Davis is one of the best competitors to play for Greater Western Sydney. Thrust into captaincy at a very young age, and with someone in Ward who it came less naturally to, the former Crow was pivotal in setting the standards early and maintaining them across a prolonged period. That meant playing Bad Cop, rather than the Good Cop role that Ward enjoyed. But it didn’t matter to Davis. His fingerprints are all over the Giants.  

Phil Davis fronts the media after signing with the Giants in September, 2011. Picture: AFL Photos

8. LACHIE WHITFIELD (168 games)

There haven’t been too many more devastating players at the Giants than the 2012 No.1 pick. Whitfield is arguably the best kick in the competition, when you factor in what he can do on both sides of his body, weighted or short, long and penetrating, he can do it all. And then there is his engine that motors up and down the ground at a level that keeps oppositions coaches up during the week. Untimely injuries have prevented him from adding to the one All-Australian blazer that hangs up at home, but by the end of his career, the Peninsula product will have more. With 168 games already on the board, the 27-year-old is well placed to reach 300 given his contract doesn’t expire for another five seasons after this one. There has never been even a suggestion that he might consider options elsewhere. 

Lachie Whitfield celebrates the win over Sydney in the elimination final on August 28, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

7. SHANE MUMFORD (116 games)

If Leon Cameron has his way, the old school ruckman from Bunyip will be here as long as his wants, such has been the impact Mumford has had at the Giants. Far from the most gifted ruckman in the caper, the former Cat and Swan always found a way to make an impact for the team, dabbling in the dark arts when necessary. Everyone walked taller when Mumford played. And when you consider the age profile of this list over the duration, that can't be undervalued. From stars to rookies, the 2014 Kevin Sheedy Medallist provided a level of confidence to all. The Giants have gone back to the well with the 35-year-old on multiple occasions already and no one would batter an eyelid if a scenario arose in 2022 where Mumford was manning the fort again, with Coniglio, Kelly and co standing at his feet. Stranger things will happen in the next six months. This might be too high for those on the outside, but inside the four walls of the football club, some would argue he should be higher.

Shane Mumford with his kids during the Grand Final Parade on September 27, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

6. HEATH SHAW (152 games)

When Shaw left Collingwood for GWS, some thought he might fade into the background, at least from an on-field aspect. Instead, the 2010 premiership player enhanced his reputation and played for much longer than first thought, helping the generation that now leads the club develop into stars of the game. Shaw didn’t earn All-Australian selection during his 173 games in the black and white, but claimed two blazers in consecutive years in 2015 and 2016 to go with a best and fairest, adding 152 games at the Giants to take his career tally to 325. Just like Mumford, Shaw made others stand taller and also provided the club with a voice externally, increasing interest in the game's youngest franchise in Victoria. Even if that wasn’t his plan. The Giants have recruited better players, but the recruitment of Shaw and Mumford at the end of 2013 was one of the better decisions the club made. Both are big characters who turned the 18th franchise into a football club. And that can't be underrated. 

Heath Shaw poses for a photo on July 24, 2019. Picture: Getty Images

5. JOSH KELLY (156 games)

The new co-captain of Greater Western Sydney is the only multiple winner of the Kevin Sheedy Medal, adding last year's best and fairest to the one he won in 2017, where he also claimed an All-Australian blazer. One of the smoothest movers in the game right now, Kelly has been already produced an eye-catching first 155 games in the AFL, but by the end of his career he could be the very best to ever wear orange. The 27-year-old turned his back on the opportunity to return to Melbourne and play for North Melbourne – the side his father played for and the side he supported as a kid – to trigger an eight-year extension that will keep him in the harbour city until 2029. That show of loyalty is a key reason why he is now one of three captains at the club. You get the sense his next couple of years are going to be pretty special.

Josh Kelly at the Captains Day in Sydney on March 9, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

4. STEPHEN CONIGLIO (157 games)

When it comes to building winning organisations, culture is critical. Greater Western Sydney hasn’t won the ultimate prize, but they have played finals in five of the past six years, including three preliminary finals. Speak to anyone inside the WestConnex Centre and it won't take long to learn how pivotal Stephen Coniglio has been in helping build this place into something that’s revered around the competition. The West Australian has endured a difficult two seasons, but before that he had established himself as one of the premier game-breaking midfielders in the AFL. Before he went down in 2019, he was coming third in the Brownlow Medal with six rounds to go. Coniglio led the club for the past two years on his own and now shares the responsibility with Toby Greene and Josh Kelly. After finally getting his body right, Coniglio is poised to return to his prime in 2022. If he can do that, the Giants are capable of making another deep September run.

Giants co-captains: Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly. Picture: Phil Hillyard

3. CALLAN WARD (189 games)

There aren’t many more adored players than Ward in the history of the Giants. The heartbeat of the club was the second player to publicly commit to the club, much to the disappointment of the Western Bulldogs who were devastated to lose the kid who grew up around the corner. In the decade since, the soon-to-be 32-year-old has played an integral role in building the Giants. Ward will play his 250th game this Sunday when he returns to Melbourne and is the clubhouse leader at the Giants, with 189 next to his name. The inside midfielder – who is set for time across half-back this season – won the best and fairest in the inaugural season and led the club from 2012 to 2019, alongside Luke Power in year one and Phil Davis for the duration. It is hard to picture the Giants without Ward, such has been his stamp on the club's brand. Some inside the club would be comfortable with Ward at the top of this list, such has been the profound impact he has had on others.

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2. JEREMY CAMERON (171 games)

Cameron has a better resume than Greene at this point and could end up having a better career by the time the pair hang up their boots. The Dartmoor product is back in Victoria playing for Geelong, but his time in the harbour city was something to behold, especially when you consider what he did as a key forward playing on the best defender each week. Cameron's numbers are phenomenal. He led the goalkicking in all nine seasons, booting 427 goals. Two All-Australian blazers in a position that only a few each year can land, including selection in just his second season, plus a Coleman Medal after kicking 76.50 in 2019. If Leon Cameron can't land the Giants' first flag during his time in charge, the loss of Cameron could prove to be the one that hurts the most. Midfielders grow on trees, key forwards do not.

GWS' Jeremy Cameron celebrates his match-winning goal against Richmond in round nine, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

1. TOBY GREENE (176 games)

No one has generated more interest – good or bad – for Greater Western Sydney than Greene. Despite playing off-Broadway, the dual All-Australian is pure box office, one of the best players in the game at his peak. And while Greene is prone to MRO intervention on a regular basis – and may never be able to remove that element of his game from his output – the good far outweighs the bad. Not many can do what Greene can do. After starting his career as an accumulating midfielder, the 28-year-old has transformed into one of the most destructive forwards in the business. Many will have Cameron in front of Greene, but when you consider he has never wavered in his loyalty to Greater Western Sydney and is now the spiritual leader of the Giants, Greene deserves this mantle. 

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