Leon Cameron’s stint as Giants coach has ended, stepping down from the role eight rounds into his ninth season at the club rather than seeing out his contract for the full season.
Cameron, who was out-of-contract at season’s end, informed players and staff of his decision to vacate his position on Thursday morning. He later stressed to reporters at a press conference alongside club chief executive Dave Matthews and chairman Tony Shepherd that it was a “mutual decision between myself and the footy club”.
Cameron will coach against Carlton on Sunday in a farewell game before departing the club. Assistant coach — and former 232-game Bomber — Mark McVeigh will become caretaker until season’s end.
Matthews told reporters he and Cameron came to a mutual agreement on Tuesday after the parties’ “very pragmatic and mature approach to this year”. He said the Giants were “very grateful” to Cameron, who’d done an “outstanding” job across nearly nine seasons
“His legacy is absolutely assured. He’s taken us to finals, he’s won finals,” Matthews said.
“He‘s done what a lot of AFL coaches haven’t done and that is not just coach a team, he’s helped build a club. He brought his values to this club and he’s created a culture that is very resilient and addresses the challenges that a young, start-up club in this fierce competition has to actually confront.”
Shepherd said the Giants would give Cameron a “special send-off” on Sunday after his “immense” contribution to the club.
“I go back 12 years with his club and I look at us at the start — a baby club, a whole bunch of rambunctious teenagers coming up from Melbourne and around the country to set up an elite AFL club — and Leon has been a strong part of the journey to establish this club as a real force in the AFL,” Shepherd said.
“He took a whole bunch of teenagers and turned them into elite footballers — a remarkable achievement in our view.”
The coach’s departure comes after both Cameron and the Giants publicly confirmed months ago they’d put off contract talks, despite the club’s famous elimination final win over the Swans 10 games ago.
Cameron said coaching was “a tough job and it can wear you down”, but added he was “really proud to say it’s a joint decision”.
“I‘ve been here for just short of 10 years. You assess where you’re going and I think the club made a really mature decision. I understand that at the start of the year when you park contract talks to the end of the year, it’s always going to create a bit of speculation. But for that reason, that’s the maturity that we have here,” he said. “We have open, honest conversations.
“On Tuesday when I caught up with Dave, we said ‘I think the time is right’ to have a bit of breathing space for the club to look for its next coach.”
Cameron later added: “I know I’ve still got the players, but it’s a sapping job — and I’ll be totally honest, sometimes that can wear you down a little bit.
“But in saying that, that’s not the only reason. There’s a whole bunch of reasons.
“We all in life try to find that perfect moment to make the perfect decision. This is a good decision. As much as what it sounds hard, it‘s a good decision.”
The Giants, who made the finals last year for the fifth time under Cameron, sit 15th on the ladder with a 2-6 record after eight rounds this season.
They managed just four goals during a 53-point loss to Geelong in Canberra last weekend, with Cameron post-game labelling his side’s performance as “boring”.