Leon Cameron at Hawthorn. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
GREATER Western Sydney has sneaked under the guard of Port Adelaide and signed Hawthorn assistant coach Leon Cameron to a deal that will see him succeeding Kevin Sheedy as head coach of the new club from the 2014 season.
Port Adelaide had hoped Cameron would be the man to sign a long-term deal as its head coach some time this week, but after meeting with Giants chairman Tony Shepherd, chief executive David Matthews and Sheedy himself - who has played a role in selecting his successor - Cameron accepted the Sydney club's offer.
The Giants offered Cameron a four-year contract. The first year he will serve as senior assistant to Sheedy, the role that former Port coach Mark Williams had in 2012, and then the following three years he will lead the club as senior coach.
It is believed Sheedy won't be lost to the club after he finishes coaching at the end of next season, with the club expected at some stage to announce a future role that he will have with the Giants.
The Giants, while being respectful of the teams involved in the finals, had been interviewing a number of coaches in the hope of finding the perfect replacement for Williams, who stunned many when he announced at the end of the season that he would be leaving the club and heading to Richmond.
Many thought he would take over from Sheedy, some believing that would be in 2013, but the master coach signed on for another year during the season, meaning that Williams would have had to wait until 2014 before his succession plan kicked in. He chose to move on instead.
The Giants are believed to have spoken with West Coast assistant Scott Burns, Hawthorn assistant Adam Simpson and Carlton assistant Alan Richardson, before meeting with Cameron - himself an assistant at Hawthorn - who became the one they chose.
Cameron, a 256-senior game veteran with the Bulldogs and then Richmond, spent seven seasons as an assistant at the Western Bulldogs, before moving on to Hawthorn in 2010. He is believed to have narrowly missed out on the Bulldogs' senior job last year.
While an immediate senior coaching role would have been tempting, so, too, would the prospect of coaching one of the most talented -albeit young - lists in the competition, a team, which, if kept together in coming years, is expected to be a finals contender before the end of Cameron's tenure.
Simpson and former Swans and Bulldog coach Rodney Eade are now among the favourites for the Port Adelaide position. Ken Hinkley, an assistant at Gold Coast, is another candidate.
''He's [Cameron] certainly one of the ones we've been working through over the last couple of weeks,'' Port football manager Peter Rohde said. ''We certainly have quite a few other options … we'd like to think we'll have it finished by the end of the week or over the weekend.
''We won't be hurrying the process, it's important we get the right decision.''
Port Adelaide has lost Danyle Pearce and Troy Chaplin could follow. The Power announced on Wednesday they would not match Fremantle's offer for Pearce, the 2006 Rising Star winner.
Like Pearce, Chaplin is also a restricted free agent and the Power has until this afternoon to decide whether it will match Richmond's offer for the key defender.
Port's financial woes and poor on-field form makes it particularly vulnerable in the new free agency system.
Rohde said they had made a call on Pearce first because his situation was much more clear-cut.
''We got the Pearce one earlier … we had more time to consider that,'' Rohde told AFL Trade Radio.
''To be more honest, it's a bit more cut-and-dried, to match the offer that Fremantle put up was really not an option for us.
''We think the offer they've given him is very generous.''