GWS veteran Callan Ward will make his AFL return from a knee reconstruction in Sunday’s clash with North Melbourne, ending almost 21 months of frustration.
Ward hasn’t played since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in round four of the 2019 season, while he hasn’t completed a full game since a 2018 semi-final loss to Collingwood.
The foundation Giant trained at full intensity during the COVID-19 shutdown and has impressed coach Leon Cameron since returning to the club.
“I’ve been ready to play for a while now,” former co-captain Ward said at Giants Stadium, where his team continues their campaign this weekend.
“In those eight weeks of iso I was doing pretty much everything. For the game to finally come around and be picked, it means a lot.”
The setback forced the hard-nosed midfielder to miss his club’s maiden grand final appearance, when they were thumped by Richmond.
Ward, who has played a key role in the the expansion club’s growth since leaving Western Bulldogs in 2011, suggested that lopsided match wasn’t the hardest moment of his comeback journey.
“Because I’d almost accepted that I wasn’t going to play anyway,” he told reporters.
“Mentally I was prepared to not play, so once it came around I was actually fine. Obviously jealous I wasn’t part of it, but to be part of it as well on the bench was really special.
“Hopefully I can play in the next one.”
The 30-year-old thanked club medicos and his family for their support during an extended stint on the sidelines, admitting it took him some time to process the severity of the injury.
“I haven’t had too many injuries. So to accept the fact I wasn’t going to play for the rest of the year was probably the hardest part,” Ward said.
“I had some issues with my tendon for about four or five months. Dealing with that was really frustrating.
“Because you’d feel good one day then the next it’d be shocking. I couldn’t jog without pain, couldn’t wake up in the morning without pain.”