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Callan Ward has had a long and successful career but is desperately craving an AFL premiership. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

‘My career won’t be complete’: Ward bent on GWS flag

Joanna Guelas February 10, 2024

Callan Ward is a club best-and-fairest winner, a two-time Brett Kirk medallist and a recipient of the players’ player Robert Rose medal.

He is also just five games short of reaching the 300-AFL game milestone. 

But entering his 17th AFL season, his 13th with Greater Western Sydney, he remains unfulfilled.

The one accolade missing from his impressive resume is: premiership winner.

Going on 34 in April, the midfielder doesn’t need reminding he is the oldest on the club’s list with retirement fast approaching.

The inaugural Giant admits this year could be his last shot at a premiership and acknowledges, without fear or shame, he is frustrated.

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 Callan Ward (r) has been a leader at GWS and is focused on steering the team to a premiership. Image by Jonathan Di Maggio/AAP PHOTOS 

“When you get to the end of your career and you haven’t played in a premiership – haven’t even played in the grand final – you reflect on what you’ve done for your whole career,” Ward told AAP.

“It’s something that I think about a lot.

“At the moment it feels unfulfilled. It feels almost like I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve.”

It’s not that Ward hasn’t achieved anything.

Leaving the Western Bulldogs in 2011, Ward led the Giants from its inception as a co-captain for eight seasons and remains the club’s games record holder with 235 to his name.

He is also on 295 games, with only 102 players in the league’s 128-year-long history attaining 300-game status.

Ward is also a one-time club best-and-fairest, a two-time Brett Kirk medallist and a recipient of the players’ player Robert Rose medal at GWS.

But missing the 2019 grand final overshadows everything else.

After rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament earlier in the season, Ward had to watch from the stands their first and only grand-final appearance when GWS were demolished by a rampaging Richmond unit.

Playing against his former club in the 2016 preliminary final, the Giants fell short in a match he was subbed out of with concussion.

Up by two goals in the opening minutes of the final quarter against the Bulldogs, GWS lost a classic by six points as Ward sat, helpless and sore, on the bench.

Now, he’s bent on making up for lost time.

“The fire in the belly is at an all-time high,” Ward said.

“The ultimate is to play in the premiership and I haven’t done that.

“Being a leader of this football club for a long time, it’s something I really want to do and I feel like my career won’t be complete until I achieve that.”

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 Callan Ward and the Giants has been reinvigorated since the arrival of coach Adam Kingsley. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Under coach Adam Kingsley, Ward has experienced a resurgence in form.

The veteran midfielder continues to fight with the same grit his 18-year-old self possessed, last year boasting an average of 22 disposals and four tackles a game.

In 2023, the Giants stalwart played 25 games – the equal most games he has played in one season.

Should he have to close the chapter on his footy career, the young ones will have a battle for his spot.

“It’s been a different feel around this footy club since ‘Kingers’ has come in,” Ward said.

“It seems like the motivation for success is at an all-time high.

“I’m just trying to enjoy myself, my footy and work hard as much as I can.

“There’s a lot of young boys coming through trying to take my spot, so they keep me on my toes.

“It could be my last year doing it but we’ll see how we go.”