The Greater Western Sydney Giants and the AFL have moved to deny assertions that head office has an active interest in key decisions at the club, like the future of coach Leon Cameron.
The AFL has denied they’re the Greater Western Sydney helicopter parents, with an unhealthy influence over how the competition’s youngest child is growing up.
League boss Gillon McLachlan’s bold declaration that he wants off-contract superstar Stephen Coniglio to re-sign at the Giants has raised eyebrows around the game about whether the AFL is holding an active interest in the future direction of the club they created.
Veteran journalist Caroline Wilson reported on Channel 9 earlier this week that Giants coach Leon Cameron was “on the nose” at AFL House, claiming they are concerned about how their “baby” club is being coached.
The relationship between the Giants and the AFL is a unique one and given the league are the club’s sole shareholders and will prop them up with almost $48 million in grants over the next two years, GWS are compelled to run key decisions such as football or board appointments past the AFL for a green tick of approval.
However, Giants sources insisted AFL House has no influence over hiring and firing, had not made any intimations about Cameron or football boss Wayne Campbell, and had never in the club’s history interfered on an appointment.
AFL chief McLachlan emphatically told The Daily Telegraph that head office would never poke their nose in on matters like the future of a coach.
“No those are decisions for the club. You can’t expect people on boards to give their time voluntarily and do that if they feel the AFL is going to (come over the top),” McLachlan said.
“They (GWS) operate independently and autonomously and they make the decisions around that.
“They make the decisions in and around their club and it doesn’t work if everything we disagreed with, the AFL came over the top. It wouldn’t work.”
McLachlan made those comments earlier in the year, but the AFL stood by them.
Cameron said on Tuesday he recently had dinner with McLachlan and that the game’s boss was “very, very happy with how the club is progressing.”
GWS insist it would take an extreme set of circumstances for the AFL to query or veto a decision made by the club’s front office — and that it has never happened to date.
McLachlan said on the Sportsday program in Melbourne that he has told Coniglio that he would like to see him remain a Giant.
“I’ll be explicit. I’d love him to stay up there,” said McLachlan.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley responded on SEN Radio that he would have preferred McLachlan to be “more neutral”.
“Does it bother me? I think in his position you’d want to remain a little more neutral to be honest,” Buckley said.
The Giants have angrily denied reports that Football boss Campbell has relationship issues with key players, including Coniglio and that he is likely to be moved on at season’s end.
They are privately annoyed that the club is being bashed from pillar to post with no recognition of the fact they have been completely decimated by injury, with virtually their entire midfield and half their forward line missing from last Friday night’s humiliation at the hands of Hawthorn.
Giants chief executive David Matthews gave his support to Cameron over the weekend but said there was no need to rush talks to extend the coach’s contract beyond next year.
“No not at this stage,” said Matthews. “I think he’s done a fabulous job for us so far Leon and there’s no time line on that at the minute.”