GWS have made the sensational call to drop captain Stephen Coniglio for Saturday night’s crunch AFL clash with Melbourne.
Coniglio was appointed skipper in the aftermath of the Giants’ loss in the 2019 grand final.
The promotion came after the star midfielder turned down several suitors to sign a seven-year contract extension with the expansion club, reportedly worth $7 million.
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Coniglio’s leadership and patchy form has been a talking point throughout an underwhelming 2020 for GWS, who are currently clinging to eighth spot on the ladder.
The Giants, whose run of four consecutive finals appearances is at risk of ending, have made the huge call to dump their captain after a shock loss to last-placed Adelaide.
GWS coach Leon Cameron told players on Friday morning that Coniglio will not run out at the Gabba this weekend.
Cameron noted it was simply a matter of picking the best possible team for a high-stakes game against 10th-placed Melbourne that he has dubbed the Giants' “first final”.
All parties were keen to call a spade a spade, rather than try to pretend Coniglio had been managed or rested.
The Giants are yet to decide who will lead the team this weekend.
Matt de Boer, who will notch his 200th game when GWS face the Demons, and Toby Greene, who performed the role of caretaker captain last year when Phil Davis and Callan Ward were both unavailable, are the most likely contenders.
GWS football manager Jason McCartney confirmed Coniglio’s omission, noting “Stephen is the first to admit his form hasn't been where he'd like it to be”.
“We see this as a speed bump in the road. He's a quality man and he'll bounce back,” McCartney said in a statement.
“It's a sign of a strong football club that if people don't perform at all levels, you need to have hard conversations.
“He's an A-grade footballer, he's an A-grade person and we'll support him and he'll bounce back.
“Our focus now goes onto Saturday night and Melbourne.”
AFL world reacts to ‘explosive’ Coniglio call
Discussing the situation on Friday, Essendon great Tim Watson described GWS’ decision as “explosive”.
“Is that a statement or what?” Watson said on SEN Radio. “That’s explosive and if he (Cameron) wants a reaction and wants to shake up his team, that’s going to do it for sure.
“That’s not just a waking up in the morning and reacting to somebody and what they can’t do.
“That’s something that you’ve been thinking about as a coaching staff for a period of time.
“That is massive, massive news. Your captain, your leader. Right now, what do they need?
“You’ve got Phil Davis sitting on the sidelines, he’s not going to come back this year.
“Now you’ve dropped your skipper for a super important game too.”
Melbourne champion Garry Lyon commended the Giants for the “gutsy” call.
“Wow, that’s a statement from Leon Cameron,” he said. “I thought Stephen Coniglio was one of the best young leaders. Well he is, but it doesn’t make you immune from a form slump.
“When it’s from the top down and your leader is dropped, then it does sharpen everyone else from the top down.
“It’s a really gutsy, brave move. The bottom line is, it will all depend on what happens in the next two weeks. That’s why it’s gutsy.
“Leon Cameron and his (coaching) group would know that team and how they’ve been playing much better than we do and what he asks of his players much better than anyone else in the footy world would do.
“If that’s what he sees then good on him for having the courage to do it.
“No one is assured of a game at GWS right now. Seven years he (Coniglio) recommitted to at around $7 million, is the report, but you’ve got to still deliver otherwise you are not guaranteed a spot.”
Fans and pundits were equally as stunned, taking to social media in disbelief.
Absurd decision to drop Stephen Coniglio, even if his form has been well below his best. Way too late to use the captain as a scapegoat. Been many worse than him, reeks of desperation— Adam Curley (@AdamCurleyMedia) September 11, 2020
Jeez it's been a weird year for AFL captains - Joel Selwood has played only 10 games, Trent Cotchin 11 and now Stephen Coniglio reportedly dropped.— Tim Michell (@tim_michell) September 10, 2020
Luke Parker, Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty, Marcus Bontempelli & Jarrod Witts are the only captains to play every game.
Has Stephen Coniglio's form really been that bad?— Tim Michell (@tim_michell) September 10, 2020
He's averaging 97 ranking points (only 4 less than last year - which included a 0).
Also averaging 21 disposals, 2.5 marks, 4 tackles and 4 clearances.
Surely that's best 22 in a game you simply must win?
Dropping Coniglio? Your million dollar captain? This Amazon doco is going to be more Sunderland Til I Die than The Last Dance— Oliver Caffrey (@ollycaffrey) September 11, 2020