Days after missing the finals for the first time in five years, Greater Western Sydney have suffered a major blow after Zac Williams informed the club he was exploring his free agency options.
Williams has left a long-term contract offer from the Giants on the table all season, and has been consistently linked to a move interstate with Carlton among his strongest suitors.
The 26-year-old broke the news to the Giants on Monday, with his preferred destination a Victorian club that would allow him to be closer to his Albury-based sister.
Losing Williams is a particularly bitter outcome for GWS, given the talented half-back flanker is a NSW product who grew up in Narrandera, came through the club’s academy pathway and was mentored by inaugural coach Kevin Sheedy.
« It’s disappointing to receive this news as Zac has come a long way since coming through the Giants Academy pathway, » said GWS head of football Jason McCartney.
« We understand that free agency is part of the current football landscape and that the players have the right to go down this path. »
Williams is a restricted free agent, but it is unlikely the Giants will be in a position to match a bid from an AFL rival given their current salary cap squeeze.
One of the stars of their gripping run to last year’s grand final, Williams becomes the second GWS player to leave the club in the space of a week after defender Aidan Corr also flagged his intention to move to a Victorian club for family reasons.
Jeremy Cameron and Harry Perryman are also off contract and yet to commit to the club, while coach Leon Cameron is likely to need a new suite of assistants with Mark McVeigh rumoured to be considering an exit. Lenny Hayes and Brad Miller have already confirmed they are leaving the Giants and are likely to step away from football altogether.
The Giants finished 10th on the ladder this year, ending a four-year streak of finals football.
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