GREATER Western Sydney CEO Dave Matthews has blamed the abolition of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for the player movement out of the club.
The Giants have lost young midfielder Will Setterfield to Carlton and running machine Tom Scully to Hawthorn this NAB AFL Trade Period, with Dylan Shiel requesting an as-yet-uncompleted trade with Essendon.
Ruckman Rory Lobb may be on the move to Fremantle, while Jeremy Finlayson has been connected to a few clubs.
There's no mismanagement here, it's the consequence of being forced to crunch what is a very strong list into a smaller cap than what was anticipated
Speaking on SEN, Matthews said the phasing out of COLA from 2015 to 2017 affected the Giants' financial planning and salary cap, losing "three million dollars of purchasing power".
"Over seven years, probably in the first three years our funding model meant we were about two-and-a-half million dollars under the player payments limit," Matthews said.
"We just didn't have a funding model that supported us being able to pay up to the limit.
"As we started to build our business and get ourselves in a position to be able to do that, based on, I think, a lot of lobbying and some early panic from Victorian clubs about how strong we were going to be, there's the removal of COLA.
"COLA was removed, essentially, off the back of Kurt Tippett and Buddy Franklin going to the Swans in consecutive years. We had nothing to do with either of those two decisions, but the knock-on effect when you remove COLA from the Swans, was to remove it from us."
Matthews said GWS hadn't mishandled their salary cap and that the AFL needed to provide more support to the newer clubs in themselves and Gold Coast.
"I see it as a responsible approach. There's no mismanagement here, it's the consequence of being forced to crunch what is a very strong list into a smaller cap than what was anticipated.
"Victorian media, or Victorian clubs, take some delight in seeing players come home from Gold Coast or the Giants, but ultimately it defeats the purpose of the AFL's investment to try and set up a competition that's well represented in New South Wales and Queensland."
Speaking separately on NAB AFL Trade Radio, and not in response to Matthews' comments, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the player movement out of GWS was the salary cap at work.
"I think it's a reflection of the amount of talent they've had. Their best team next year is still as talented as any in the League, that's how the salary cap works," McLachlan said.
"All the other clubs were worried about a 'super-team' that would win five premierships in a row. The way the system works is the salary cap brings that talent into a more normalised number.
"They've got an incredibly talented team, they'll look to win the flag next year and I know they'll be very competitive.
"Their history is the vast majority of players who have left have been for salary cap issues (not a 'go-home factor' being based in Sydney). They're managing their list. They do not have a talent retention problem to my knowledge, I have some level of insight into that. They've had to lose players because of the salary cap."