GWS leader Ward hails Hopper and Taranto

Tim Taranto has been the key possession winner for GWS this AFL season.
Tim Taranto has been the key possession winner for GWS this AFL season.

GWS co-captain Callan Ward has heaped praise on new midfield stars Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper while admitting the Giants face a challenging period without their three most established players in that area.

Sixth-placed GWS, who have lost their past three games, head into Saturday's home clash with Collingwood without Ward, Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly.

Ward has played just one game this season after suffering an ACL knee injury in mid-April.

Kelly, who missed last week's loss to Richmond with a calf injury, is expected to miss two more matches.

Coniglio, suffered knee damage last weekend and underwent surgery on Tuesday. He will be out for about two months.

Hopper, 22, and Taranto, 21, are both having a breakout campaign, stepping up after Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully and Will Settterfield left the Giants at the end of last year.

Taranto, who has played 53 games, has accumulated more possessions than any other Giants player this year, with 60-match Hopper second, with the pair averaging 28 and 26 touches respectively.

"Timmy Taranto and Hops have had terrific years so far and they are guys who I have been really proud of this year because they are young and they haven't played too much footy," Ward said.

"They've led from the front all year and they've had help with Chook (Kelly), Cogs (Coniglio) and a few other boys, but now it's just them.

"Daniel Lloyd steps into the midfield and hopefully plays some more minutes through there and I think Toby Greene will probably start playing through there a bit more now.

"It's a challenging period for us but I've got full confidence in the group. We have the boys who can actually step up."

Ward said he is building up his leg strength and hopes to start running in three to four weeks.

"I'm just trying to do everything as quickly as I can, if that means I can play this year then that's great," Ward said.

"But I think in the back of my mind I know that it's usually a 10-month injury, so I think my chances of playing this year are pretty slim.

He expects to be doing some rehab alongside Coniglio.

"There's only six games left for the season and finals, so it's going to be hard for him to get back," Ward said.

"But at the same time he's the type of guy who will do everything he can to get back as quickly as he can."

Australian Associated Press