Phil Davis struggles to think of a more resilient role model than Callan Ward, who on Sunday will end almost 21 months of frustration when he marks his AFL return from a knee reconstruction.
GWS veteran Ward hasn’t played since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in round four of 2019, having made a delayed start to that season because of a different knee injury.
The hard-nosed midfielder, who hasn’t completed a full game since the Giants’ 2018 semi-final loss to Collingwood, is now ready to face North Melbourne at Giants Stadium.
Ward missed the expansion club’s maiden grand final, a milestone he’d been working towards since leaving Western Bulldogs in 2011.
The 30-year-old suggested that lopsided loss wasn’t the hardest hurdle to clear during his stint on the sidelines, noting he had already mentally “prepared to not play”.
Davis, who shared co-captaincy duties with Ward throughout the club’s existence until they both passed the baton onto Stephen Coniglio for 2020, described Ward’s selflessness in grand final week as “phenomenal”.
“He would have given anything to play but he couldn’t. Yet you could never have told that given his demeanour, you couldn’t tell he was feeling anything but joy for teammates,” Davis recalled.
“His attitude is the thing that separates him from the rest of the players I’ve played with.
“He’s so optimistic, diligent and he just doesn’t get fussed. You’d struggle to find a more resilient person.
“A fully-fit Callan Ward almost puts us another peg higher, because of the calibre of person he is and his ability to make others better.”
Davis added it was fitting that Ward, while addressing teammates on Thursday, spoke more about others than himself.
“I just spoke about what I’ve been through, what the club has been through and what I’m looking forward to,” Ward told reporters.
Ward thanked club medicos and his family for their support.
“I had some issues with my tendon for about four or five months. Dealing with that was really frustrating,” he said.
“Because you’d feel good one day then the next it’d be shocking. I couldn’t jog or wake up in the morning without pain.”
Sunday’s clash will also be special for Davis, who plays his 150th game for the club and joins Ward, Jeremy Cameron and Kevin Sheedy as GWS life members.
“He’s done so much for me as a player but also more importantly as a person, I’ve learned so much from him,” Ward said.