AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan is facing backlash after declaring he hopes to see star free agent Stephen Coniglio remains at GWS.
The off-contract midfielder is weighing up offers from the Giants and several Victorian clubs, with Carlton believed to be leading the race for his signature.
GWS remain 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 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.”
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.