Under-fire Brisbane Lions coach Justin Leppitsch has lashed out at continued media criticism of the AFL club and his players.
A newspaper column on Saturday took square aim at Tom Rockliff, describing him as overweight and a regular on Brisbane’s social scene who sets a bad example as Lions skipper.
It comes on the back of another difficult week for the Lions who were forced to deny fresh reports of player unrest.
Speculation about Rockliff’s future continues to circulate, despite the captain being under contract until the end of 2017.
Leppitsch said he could deal with being a target himself, but he wouldn’t stand by and let his players be unfairly criticised.
“Some of the crap that’s written about our players, basically lies written in the press annoy me, about our boys,” he told reporters on Saturday morning.
“Some of our young boys don’t deserve it, like Squiz (Lewis Taylor) and our captain as well, copping it for no reason – it’s all rubbish.
“That kills me, but I can cop it, so bring it on. I’m big and strong enough to handle it and to be honest I don’t really rate the opinions of those that are speaking, so that’s the way it goes.”
Reports have linked Rockliff to a possible move to Adelaide when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.
But his manager has denied the move, and Leppitsch maintained there are no underlying tensions at the Lions.
“There’s reasons why you lose, but one thing people can’t understand is that we have a young group that makes errors which is why we lose, and it adds up to losing,” he said.
“Some people want it to be some mysterious reason – someone hates somebody. It’s garbage.”
The Lions host Greater Western Sydney at the Gabba on Sunday and are odds-on to book what would be a club record 12th consecutive defeat.
Leppitsch said the rise of the Giants was proof what the Lions were trying to do wasn’t unprecedented.
“People don’t remember they’ve had a two-win season, a one-win season, a six, 11 and now what they’re doing this year,” he said.
“Our list management and planning is mirroring what they’re doing as a club.”