It was with a mixture of pride and pain GWS co-captain Callan Ward watched the Western Bulldogs celebrate a fairytale AFL premiership.
Ward had been knocked out – both figuratively and literally – by his former club seven days earlier in a classic preliminary final, dashing his own flag dream.
The Bulldogs eliminated the Giants in a pulsating clash, where Ward copped a match-ending knee to the head, on their way to collecting their first flag since 1954.
“I was very proud of the Bulldogs,” Ward said.
“I’ve got a lot of mates there so I was very happy to see them win the premiership but at the same time it was hard seeing that because I thought it could be us, it should be us playing in the grand final,” Ward said.
Ward, who left the Dogs for the expansion club at the end of 2011, has reflected on the Giants’ one-goal defeat since, but is eager to put it behind him with the new season approaching.
“I have thought about it quite a bit but it’s out of my control now,” Ward said.
“It’s a whole new season. We just have to play as good as we can to play in the finals again.”
A new year has brought new expectations with the Giants installed as premiership favourites, a tag Ward insists means little inside the club.
“We hear the noise from external people and the media,” Ward said.
“It’s not something we can control.
“It’s probably a compliment for us that people think we’re good enough to win the premiership.”
The Giants added some more star power to their talent-laden list with Brett Deledio switching from Richmond at the end of last season.
The 29-year-old’s pre-season has been interrupted by a calf strain with GWS taking a conservative approach after similar problems limited Deledio to 11 games for the Tigers last year.
He will miss the Giants’ first two pre-season matches but is expected to return for their final tune up against North Melbourne in Canberra on March 10.
“It’s not a big issue at all. It’s just maintenance with him,” Ward said.
“He’s had calf issues in the past so we need to be careful with him.”
Aside from their big-name recruit, the Giants also had four picks at the national draft inside the top 20.
Ward said Tim Tarranto (pick two) and Harry Perryman (pick 14) had been impressive since arriving at the club.