Axing the Captain for a Do or Die Clash… Why?

Leon Cameron may have been given the keys to the Ferrari, but after a season-long journey of bumps and sharp corners, it’s officially crashed. There now remain serious question marks on whether this long envied, talent-laden vehicle can even be fixed.

A loss against the Crows in round 16 has the Giants finals chances hanging by a thread, just a year after they sensationally rollicked their way to a maiden Grand Final. With captain Stephen Coniglio one of eight outs for Saturday’s do or die clash with the Dees, it seems their perplexing game style has transferred into team selection.

Coniglio’s omission is downright strange, albeit not totally shocking after murmurs of his axing occurred much earlier in the season. It’s no secret he’s struggled to find any sort of form throughout, but why drop your captain in the second last round with a finals spot on the line?

The decision runs deeper than what we see on face value, it can’t simply be performance based. Although he’s been nowhere near his best, Coniglio’s worst is still within the Giants best dozen or so players. He won 20 possessions against the Crows (third most for the Giants), whilst going at 70% efficiency. In a must win match, Melbourne’s coaching staff and legion of fans must have breathed easier with the sight of his omission.

It’s a strong message from a coach running out of ideas quickly. But as well-intentioned as it may be, it also garners the prospect of fracturing a playing group that’s displayed serious cohesion issues on field this season.

It’s a motivation tactic, albeit a negative one. If the newly appointed captain isn’t immune at team selection, no one is. The Giants have been playing like a team scared, without the empowerment and complete faith of the coaching staff. Their highly coveted ball movement of previous years has faded to unrecognizable. Although the Giants may provide the starkest contrast of this, they’re not alone. The lack of attacking ball movement and risk-taking league wide is one of the biggest plights on the current state of the game.

Coniglio’s dumping makes little sense, both in the short and long term. Cameron’s best result, although unlikely, will be that his players respond to the negative motivation and perform closer to their optimal level. As for Coniglio himself, he’ll likely return to the player who commanded a seven-year contract on big money. For now, question marks remain – has he been playing injured all year? How much is the captaincy truly effecting his form?


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