So the senior coaching career of Leon Cameron is over, and thank goodness for that.
The support for Cameron, once he announced his resignation from GWS, among a lot of media was quite bewildering. Many were talking up his credentials and that he should be in the reckoning for any senior positions going forward.
Some, frighteningly, couldn’t even understand why he was in the gun in the first place, given his record of having won a final each time the Giants had made it to the post-season.
Let’s explore this particular statistic given GWS won finals in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 under Cameron.
Across those five seasons of playing finals, the Giants recorded seven finals wins – three in 2019 and one each in the other four years.
Remarkably, five of those seven wins were against teams that finished higher on the ladder.
“Wow,” I can hear you say. “That’s a tremendous feat of coaching to get them up for those games – to deliver on the big stage like that, particularly as underdogs.”
What this actually shows is how this was a team that underperformed during the home-and-away rounds to the point that it was actually their signature.
The banner year for GWS was 2016, the first finals series in the race between them and fellow expansion club Gold Coast. The Suns of course still haven’t played in one.
The Giants won 16 games that year, after winning 11 and six in the previous two, and finished with a percentage of 143. They had five players nominated for the All Australian squad, the most of any team.
Not included in those five were other big names like Jeremy Cameron, Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes, and the currently under-siege Dylan Shiel.
The sky was genuinely the limit. They played fast footy, their ball movement was sizzling, they kicked big scores and they were genuinely exciting to watch. Sadly, this was all coached out of them.
In the three years after they ‘arrived’, GWS won 14, 13 and 13 games with an accompanying percentage of 114, 114 and 115. Sure, they’re results that St Kilda or Essendon would kill for, but they’re not anywhere near the level they had already set for themselves.
In 2019 the Giants made the grand final after winning two finals by less than a goal and won their prelim without Whitfield, Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward and Brett Deledio and with Phil Davis injured halfway through.
How could a team capable of such feats so consistently underperform over the course of a season?
The most ridiculous thing that happens in football is when all teams get graded as if on an equal curve. Premiership = awesome. Grand final = sensational. Preliminary final = great. Finals = good.
With the concessions they were given when set up as a club, the talent that has been through the door ever since and the ability to trade that talent out for high draft picks year after year to always have more coming in, the Giants have been by far the most underperforming team across the last decade.
They’ve been crying out for a new coach, and finally they’ll get one.
GWS produced a fitting farewell for Leon Cameron against Carlton. They showed a bit of something here and there, ultimately unflattering, threw in the towel when it mattered the most and were less than the sum of their parts, with gun players having no influence and/or being played out of position.
Possibly the great line in modern AFL media came from Craig Hutchison in 2017, when he questioned whether Leon Cameron could “drive the Ferrari” that the Giants team clearly was. Ultimately he couldn’t.
When the next round of senior coaching jobs comes up, Leon Cameron’s name will no doubt be bandied about. If he is in contention at the team you barrack for, pray that he doesn’t get it.