Ward ready to roll as AFL ruck if needed

GWS veteran Callan Ward is ready to serve as a pinch-hitting ruckman if required this AFL season as he seeks to bounce back after two injury-marred years.

A gruesome finger injury and knee problem restricted Ward to seven games last year, when the Giants finished 10th after starting 2020 as premiership favourites.

It came after the former co-captain’s knee reconstruction in 2019, which ensured the expansion club’s first grand final was bittersweet.

The 30-year-old is desperate to make up for lost time, even if it means serving as Shane Mumford or Matt Flynn’s understudy.

The Giants’ ruck depth recently took a hit when prized recruit Braydon Preuss underwent a shoulder reconstruction.

Flynn rolled his ankle at training on Thursday but scans have cleared the youngster of serious damage, meaning he remains on track for a round-one debut.

Ward thought his days of hunting hitouts ended four years ago, when the AFL changed its rules to ban ‘third man up’.

But the midfielder spent time rucking in last Saturday’s preseason clash with Sydney – and could reprise the role against the same opposition on Sunday.

“I didn’t know I was doing it until the week of the game. I thought about it a bit, spoke to a few of the rucks,” Ward said.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was trying to wing it. If I do it going forward, I’ll definitely have to practise.

“It was a bit different. It’s enjoyable when you change up your role, you think about different things.

“It just helps our ruckman, whoever it is, spend more time on the bench. They can go harder when playing.”

Coach Leon Cameron has previously asked forward Jeremy Finlayson to pinch hit in the ruck.

Cameron has told Ward nothing is set in stone for the season proper, but he should “be flexible, be ready”.

Ward is feeling fit as a fiddle, while fatherhood has sharpened his perspective.

“There’s a lot more to life than just football. When you have a baby, you really start to understand that,” he said, having recently celebrated son Romeo’s first birthday.

“There’s a smile on my face every time I’m with him.

“Hopefully I can start to play some good footy again, play more games … I’ve had a pretty disappointing two years.

“I had a few injuries last year, didn’t play many games. My form was down quite a bit when I played.”

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