AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan is facing criticism after declaring his desire for star free agent Stephen Coniglio to remain at GWS.
The off-contract midfielder is weighing up offers from the Giants and several Victorian clubs, with Carlton and Hawthorn firmly in the mix for his signature.
GWS remains publicly confident of retaining Coniglio but the 25-year-old has refused to be rushed in making his decision.
The gaffe-prone McLachlan raised eyebrows when he said in a radio interview that he would be disappointed if Coniglio left the Giants.
“I’ll be explicit, I want him there,” McLachlan said on SEN radio.
“I’d love him to stay.”
While the Giants’ membership recently hit the 30,000 mark, the expansion club remains heavily financially dependent on the AFL.
Essendon great Tim Watson said McLachlan’s comments left Coniglio in an awkward position, with questions certain to be raised about potential AFL interference should he opt to stay.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley agreed that it wasn’t a great look for the AFL’s top official.
“I think in his position, you’d want to remain a little more neutral to be honest,” Buckley said.
“But I can understand he’s taking a step out of his CEO’s role and saying ‘this is where I would stand personally’, so I don’t have an issue with it.
“In the end, the person who has always decided that and has to live his life the way he chooses … is Stephen Coniglio.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott was questioned on McLachlan’s comments and initially held fire, saying to comment would be “about as appropriate as the head coach of Geelong commenting on what the CEO of the AFL should or shouldn’t say”.
He then took a thinly-veiled shot at the AFL’s insistence on changing and growing the avenues for players to move clubs, the latest being a proposal for a pre-season trade period in March.
“I’m less supportive of more player movement,” Scott said.
“That’s why it’s strange when we hear some people say ‘I hope a player stays at his club’ when everything seems to be about opening up the rules to make it easier for those guys to leave.
“I’m not sure exactly where we are in terms of what certain people want.
“If you want players to stay, don’t open up the opportunity to move as readily as we have.”
Giants coach Leon Cameron on Tuesday said Coniglio was still heavily invested in GWS and looking to return from his knee injury in time to play in the finals.