Seven of the other 17 club captains believe the Giants will reach the grand final while every rival skipper picked them in their top eight. The captains were not bad judges last year – eight of them picked Richmond to win the 2019 flag.
While Coniglio did not publicly air the club’s goal for the season, it is clear the bar is being set high at Sydney Olympic Park.
“We expect a lot out of each other. In terms of expectations for how deep we want to play this year it’s right up there and getting back to exactly where we were last year,” Coniglio said.
“Instead of the pressure of it, I actually look forward to the opportunity, coming into this role of captain for me, to be the first potential premiership team – maybe this year or next year, for our club is why we go to work each day.”
The Giants were hit hard by injuries to several of their best players with the likes of Callan Ward, Toby Greene, Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield, Matt de Boer and Coniglio playing fewer than 20 games.
Ward and Coniglio, two of the club’s most important midfielders, did not feature in the club’s September campaign.
Of their best 22, only Ward and reigning club champion Tim Taranto have been ruled out of their side for round one. Ward is expected to return via the NEAFL in the first month of the season after undergoing a knee reconstruction last year.
After bleeding some elite talent in previous off seasons, the Giants lost one player from the grand final side – Adam Tomlinson, who was on the fringe by year’s end – and Jonathon Patton, who did not play last year due to injury.
Young guns Lachie Ash and Tom Green, both high picks in last year’s draft, are pushing to make their debuts in round one.
“Automatically, you start to get excited about the additions we have,” Coniglio said. “[There’s] definitely exciting times ahead.”
Coniglio said he had been worried about the impact last year’s grand final humiliation had on his teammates. It was addressed at a training camp during the preseason.
“It was almost one of the first things we spoke about when we went on camp together,” Coniglio said. “It was amazing, just the boys’ openness about it.
“You more look out for the younger guys, you know the older guys will be able to cope with it. In terms of the mental scarring from it, until we get back to Richmond and the MCG in a packed then we’ll have to answer it for ourselves.”
Coniglio said the club could not use the defeat as their sole motivation for this season.
“It’s the little things: how am I getting better as an individual, what am I bringing to the team, how is the team getting better otherwise you see what happens in the last couple of years,” Coniglio said.
“Teams pop out of nowhere, they’re away working hard. We have to keep finding ways other than losing a grand final to motivate us.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald