'Destroyed them': GWS Giants trashed over $7 million 'mistake'

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
The GWS Giants' decision to hand Steohen Coniglio a long-term contract extension has been criticised by AFL pundits after a lacklustre start to the 2022 season. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
The GWS Giants' decision to hand Steohen Coniglio a long-term contract extension has been criticised by AFL pundits after a lacklustre start to the 2022 season. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

An inauspicious start to the GWS Giants' 2022 season has begun to prompt questions about the series of lucrative long term deals the club signed with their midfield core in recent years.

Up against a depleted Richmond side without the likes of Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt, Dion Prestia, Dylan Grimes, Nick Vlastuin and Kane Lambert, the Giants gave away a promising early lead to fall to an 0-2 record.

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Despite it being star midfielder Callan Ward's 250th match, the Giants fell victim to what coach Leon Cameron called 'the Richmond way' in the 16.13 (109) to 10.13 (73) loss.

After a middle of the road 11-10 season in 2021 which saw them win a thrilling elimination final over the Sydney Swans before losing to Geelong in the semi-final, there were hopes the Giants would be able to again compete at the level which saw them win through to the 2019 grand final.

Instead they've been outclassed by the Tigers and Swans in successive games to the start the season, which has prompted the Herald Sun's Sam McClure to question the state of their salary cap.

Their success in 2019 lead the Giants to re-invest heavily in their midfield core, with the likes of Lachie Whitfield, Toby Greene, Jake Kelly and Stephen Coniglio all re-signed on lucrative long-term deals.

In an appearance on Footy Classified on Monday night, McClure singled out Coniglio's roughly $7 million deal, signed after that 2019, as one which had been ill-advised and hampered the club's ability to recruit players.

“I thought it was the wrong decision at the time, I still think it’s the wrong decision,” he said.

“That’s nothing against Stephen, who’s been a wonderful servant of that footy club for a long time. (But) they had to let him go. They’ve got so many midfielders coming through.

“That decision has really backed them into a corner for the next few years, it has absolutely destroyed that footy club financially.”

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McClure had a supporter on the panel in former Port Adelaide player Kane Cornes, who agreed the Giants had made missteps in constructing their list.

He believed Kelly's long-term deal, which is to run until 2029, would also put a handbrake on the club's efforts to win their first premiership despite Kelly's status as one of the game's best midfielders.

Cornes also said that it was worth it for clubs to occasionally make a tough decision in order to take the long view.

“They’ve made the same mistake with Kelly. Guarantee you in six years time we’re having the same discussion about Josh Kelly’s contract,” he said.

“If the Giants didn’t give Coniglio that (deal) though, someone else would’ve. Williams gets seven (years) at Carlton, Polec got five, Hannebery got five, Shiel got six, clubs continually fall into this trap.

“You’ve got to let them go at times and have to not be afraid to lose them.”

Stephen Coniglio bounced back from injury in 2022.
Stephen Coniglio has rebounded well from an injury interrupted season in 2021. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Coniglio endured a difficult and injury interrupted campaign in 2021, but has regained fitness and is now sharing captaincy duties between himself, Kelly and Greene.

He's played well early in 2022, but not well enough to escape McClure's criticism.

“There’s been misguided list management for too many years, picking up too many midfielders year after year after year,” he said.

“You’ve got too many in high places making contract decisions that have ultimately come back to the haunt club.

“I think personally if the footy department had their way, if Coniglio had left they would‘ve been able to cover it.”

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