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Giants scramble to cover loss of McVeigh

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Mark McVeigh, Defensive Coach of the Giants (left) and brother Jarrad McVeigh of the Swans chat after the 2015 AFL round 21 match between the GWS Giants and the Sydney Swans at Spotless Stadium, Sydney, Australia on August 22, 2015. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Mark McVeigh with his brother, Swans co-captain Jarrad

GREATER Western Sydney officials are devising a plan to cover assistant coach and former Essendon player Mark McVeigh for the 2016 season. 

McVeigh was one of 34 past and present Bombers – and the only individual in the group now employed in a coaching role in the AFL – suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday for their roles in the Essendon supplements saga. 

The Giants' backline coach until the CAS ruling was handed down, McVeigh has now been cast into the footy wilderness and banned from the club until his suspension ends in November. 

It's a blow for senior coach Leon Cameron on the eve of the season, with Cameron and his footy staff, including football and list manager Graeme Allan, set to work through options to replace McVeigh in the coming days. 

It's believed the Giants are in talks with the AFL in a bid to keep McVeigh involved in the club in an off-field capacity over the next 11 months. 

The AFL Coaches Association has also been in regular contact with McVeigh to help devise a plan for the coach while he is suspended.  

"Mark has been at pains to make clear how supportive the Giants have been which has been a great relief to him," AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw told 

"He is working out his plan for the time of his suspension and making sure that it complies with all the regulations. 

"It would be fair to say that he has a very positive outlook and wishes to represent himself in 12 months' time as a better coach then than his is now, despite the enforced suspension." 

GWS academy coach Jason Saddington, who played 162 games for the Sydney Swans and Carlton as a defender from 1998-2008, looks to be the best suited candidate to fill in for McVeigh.

Saddington coached the 2014 NAB AFL Under-18 All Australian team and the NSW/ACT Rams for three seasons before joining the Giants, and took over from McVeigh as head of their academy. 

The move would allow the club's other assistant coaches in Luke Power (midfield), Lenny Hayes (midfield), Dean Brogan (rucks/stoppages) and Amon Buchanan (forwards) to continue to work with their respective groups without disruption. 

Power has previously worked with the Giant's defensive group, so he could help Saddington transition into senior coaching. 

Senior assistant coach Alan McConnell is a outside chance to cover McVeigh, but given he has a valuable match day role in the coaches' box, his experience would be better suited to mentoring Saddington. 

Former Collingwood premiership captain Nick Maxwell is with the Giants on a part-time basis helping the club's leadership group, and would provide another ideal shoulder to lean on. 

In Power, McConnell and Maxwell, plus NEAFL coach Brad Miller, the Giants have adequate support to help Saddington, with co-captain Phil Davis and senior players Heath Shaw and Joel Patfull also valuable allies to help guide the GWS defensive group.