Under-fire Brisbane Lions captain Tom Rockliff has flatly rejected reports he is overweight and accused the media of trying to drive a wedge between players and coach Justin Leppitsch.
Rockliff was the subject of a scathing newspaper column last week, which claimed the midfielder would not pass Carlton’s strict in-season skinfold requirements and was setting a bad example for his teammates.
“To suggest I don’t train hard and he mentioned about my weight, as well, when I had a DEXA scan a few weeks ago that suggests I’m in the best shape of my life,” Rockliff told RSN radio on Wednesday.
“I think we’ve got a really good footy club that operates well and unfortunately at the moment, we’ve lost 12 games on the trot and everyone’s looking for answers.
“Externally, (the media is) trying to almost drive a wedge into our playing group and coaching staff and it is hard at times, but that’s the industry we live in.”
Rockliff said he was pleased to see Leppitsch take his defence in a fiery press conference on the morning the column was printed, slamming it as “lies” and a “bunch of bulls**t”.
“I think it sent a really strong and clear message to the public out there that we are united and all pushing as one,” Rockliff said.
“He’s commenting on rumours a lot at the moment, which becomes frustrating and I think he has to defend his job in every media (conference) that he does.
“Unfortunately we’re not playing the way we want to and getting the results we want, so he’s always under the pump, but he’s handled himself really well, we chat regularly.”
The Lions are at rock bottom following their 79-point loss to Greater Western Sydney on Sunday, played in front of a record-low Gabba crowd.
The defeat was their 12th in a row, making it the longest losing streak in club history – worse than at any time during the ‘Bad News Bears’ era of the early 1990s.
Rockliff admitted Lions players were only “half-doing” things on the field.
“We’re half-taking an opposition player out instead of fully committing to that… which translates to looking like you don’t care or your effort isn’t there, and that’s not the case at all,” he said.
Brisbane are outsiders with bookmakers to beat Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what shapes as a certain wooden spoon playoff.