GREATER Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron says the burden of captaincy took its toll on gun midfielder Stephen Coniglio in the Giants' difficult 2020 season.
Coniglio was announced captain in December 2019 but struggled to find top form and in round 17 became the first AFL captain to be dropped in 22 years.
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"That (dropping Coniglio) was a really hard decision and one that we didn't take lightly, especially at that time of year," Cameron told SEN.
"Stephen's had some challenges throughout the year - his first year as captain.
"I think absorbing all that responsibility until you actually get in the role can be quite daunting and he'd be the first to admit that."
Cameron was confident the 27-year-old Coniglio would reap the benefits of his tough year and had "all the traits" to deliver as captain.
"Cogs had a lot on his plate and he probably had too much on his plate, which probably affected his footy," he said.
"I just want him to get back to playing the footy that I know he can and I think he's going to be a fantastic captain."
The Giants slumped to a 10th-place finish in 2020 and Cameron said rather than shy away from it they had tackled their difficult season head-on over the break.
"You can hide from each other and go 'okay we'll see each other in two months and away we go again and we won't talk about that," he said.
"But myself and Cogs and our leadership group and a lot of our players that have stayed around Sydney have had some great dialogue about what we thought was right and what we thought we got probably wrong."
An off-season of change resulted in the departures of Jeremy Cameron and Zac Williams among others while Jesse Hogan headlined the arrivals.
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Cameron praised the 25-year-old former Melbourne and Fremantle forward's workrate and expected him to push hard for a starting berth.
"What we're looking forward to from a coach's point of view is who wants to grab (those best 22 spots) and Jesse sits in that boat as well," he said.
"He's looking forward to that challenge and, in these early little signs that we've seen, I can clearly see he's got an appetite to just play some really good footy and let his footy do the talking."