My European Heritage | Stephen Coniglio

MOVING out of home at age 17 to become a professional athlete is not a change that would come easy to many.

Growing up in a close-knit Italian family, and with family spread across the world, Giants captain Stephen Coniglio felt like he was leaving everything behind.

“Initially it was quite hard, my nonno (grandfather) moved to Australia in the late 1950’s, and set up home in Perth, Western Australia where a lot of my family still are to this day.

“I grew up my whole life following footy in Western Australia and barracking for West Coast, dreaming of one day playing for them.

“But as I got older I started to think, even if it was for a couple of years, to go somewhere else and experience playing footy away from home, to get out of my comfort zone and to grow as a person.”

Eight year’s later from being picked up by the Giants, Coniglio signed on with GWS for a further seven years, and not long after, was announced captain of the club.

New Giants captain Stephen Coniglio pictured with former captains Phil Davis & Callan Ward.

New Giants captain Stephen Coniglio pictured with former captains Phil Davis & Callan Ward. Picture: Getty Images.

“I had a very close family and bunch of friends back in Perth so yes whilst it was hard, I did quickly come to love Sydney and I’m happy I can now be here forever in my playing days.”

Drafted to the newly formed club in 2011, Coniglio was fortunate enough to debut as one of the first 22 players to pull on the GWS colours in round 1 of the 2012 season.

“The friendships I’ve made from moving to Greater Western Sydney has been one of the biggest highlights of my personal career.”

As the sport of Australian Football grows and spreads across the world, it’s players like Coniglio who we ought to acknowledge.

The Giant has been an AFL Multicultural Ambassador since its beginning in 2014, volunteering to grow the game not just in Western Sydney, but in Europe too.

Both of Coniglio’s parents were born overseas – his father in Italy, and mother in the United Kingdom – where plenty of his family still resides.

“I try to get over there (UK) as much as possible to see my mum’s side, who I’m all still very close with.

“I’ve been speaking to my nonna (grandmother) and my aunty (in Italy) quite frequently to make sure they’re ok. It’s been hard for them to stay inside, but they’ve been doing their best to keep busy.

“They live in quite a small town so they all do their bit to help out one another.”

A young Coniglio at the launch of the AFL Multicultural Ambassador Program in 2014. Picture: Getty Images.

A young Coniglio at the launch of the AFL Multicultural Ambassador Program in 2014. Picture: Getty Images.

The AFL had organised eleven multicultural matches to be played in 2020, with the Giants set to host one against Essendon in round 17.

As a Multicultural Ambassador, Coniglio works amongst some of the league’s most highly respected AFL players to engage people from multicultural backgrounds to connect with the game of Australian Football.

“Majak Daw, Nic Naitanui, Bachar Houli, Adam Saad… we’ve all really stuck together from the start. It’s been a real highlight being able to get together with those guys every year.”

Despite his already impressive list of accomplishments with his time in the AFL, when Coniglio was asked if it ranked highly as personal achievement, he did not hesitate to agree.

“Oh for sure, I think it’s something I’m hoping to continue to do, and not just in Sydney… I’m happy to help wherever I can.

“Over in London last year I managed to catch up with Ryan (Davey) and Oli (Howard) from AFL Europe and we organised to get over to Paris and catch up with a team.”

Whilst representing his Italian and English heritage, Coniglio very much enjoys spending time around home in Sydney and getting involved with the Western Sydney community.

“Western Sydney is as culturally diverse as it gets in Australia and to be able to share my journey with kids as an AFL player (with a different background) has been terrific.

“It’s been great to see some of the kids who have come through… you get to know them past a meet and greet, and listen to them share their own journey’s.”

Coniglio pictured with a school in Western Sydney. Photo: GIANTS Media.

Coniglio pictured with a school in Western Sydney. Photo: GIANTS Media.

In 2019, Coniglio was in fact recognised for his outstanding service to the multicultural youth and community of Western Sydney by being awarded the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.

And as to why he does all this, on top of his already busy sporting schedule, he puts very simply.

“I just like giving back to the community, and in particular, getting kids who maybe haven’t played AFL who are very talented, to try the game.”

Participation in Australian Football continues to grow amongst many culture’s both in Australia and overseas.

No matter what your background is, what language you speak or what country you’re from, footy is a game for all, and we encourage you to get in touch with your local club and get involved in Australia’s great game.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe