Greater Western Sydney football director Jimmy Bartel has leapt to the defence of embattled coach Leon Cameron, blaming basic skill errors for their disastrous AFL campaign and insisting there was "nothing sinister" behind the axing of captain Stephen Coniglio.
The Giants have slumped to ninth on the ladder after back-to-back defeats to Adelaide and Melbourne. They need a big win over St Kilda on Friday night, and other results to go their way, to reach the finals.
Cameron's controversial decision to drop Coniglio - the first time an AFL captain has been omitted for form reasons in 22 years - was intended to spark an internal response but instead it invited a fresh wave of external criticism about the club's direction and his coaching ability.
Bartel, the former Geelong champion who sits on the GWS board, said the seven-year contract Coniglio signed with the Giants last year was irrelevant.
"It's just like any other selection. I don't know why people keep referencing his contract ... he was out of form and we picked somebody else," Bartel said on the RSN Breakfast Club.
"The immediate thing is people think, 'oh he's on a seven-year contract, he must be on the way out'. It's nothing sinister. It's like any player. You've got to get picked on standards and performance and Cogs admitted, he wasn't up to it."
Bartel also shielded Cameron from criticism over his tactics, reeling off four examples of mistakes from players that led directly to opposition goals in Saturday's five-point loss to the Demons.
"It sounds so simple and basic and we talk about it a lot ... it's the fundamentals that hurt you the most, especially in big games," he said.
"That's nothing to do with people going, 'where's the game plan, where's the game plan?' If you're giving up four goals and a coach literally can't do anything ... [Cameron] can't actually fix that while the game's happening."
Cameron flagged the prospect of more big-name selection bombshells to come after the match on Saturday night, putting the likes of underperforming spearhead Jeremy Cameron firmly in the gun.
Cameron, 27, is off contract at the end of the year and is yet to sign an extension. Essendon great Matthew Lloyd suggested dropping him could have massive ramifications on his future.
"You just wonder whether he won't be at the club next year if he is to be the one that misses round 18," Lloyd said on AFL.com.au's Access All Areas.
"Leon Cameron's asking a lot of questions of his players but I think he needs to ask them of himself. He's not getting the best of his players and he should be asking hard questions of himself as well because his team, really, has underperformed - the biggest underachiever of the season."
Port Adelaide premiership star Kane Cornes said the coach, who signed a two-year deal with the club last month, had effectively painted himself into a corner by his treatment of Coniglio and now had to drop Cameron, who has been a shadow of the player that won last year's Coleman Medal.
"If it's good enough to drop the captain then you probably are going to have to say goodbye to Jeremy Cameron at selection this week," Cornes said on SEN Radio.
"I couldn't question any of their effort at the weekend ... in all the vital stats, they had a real dip, but they continue to be so ineffective going forward.
"They really do have to turn this around really quickly. Leon's extended his contract and it's got to be top four again next year, otherwise you can't make a case for Leon to continue after next year."