Footy’s forgotten man Craig Lambert gets AFL lifeline
Former Greater Western Sydney welfare manager Craig Lambert - the man at the centre of the Lachie Whitfield drugs saga - has returned to the club.
The highly-respected Lambert, who feared his time in football was over after being suspended by the AFL Commission for his role in the contentious 2016 affair, has taken on a part-time player development role under senior coach Leon Cameron.
Lambert and his wife Melissa played a critical role in helping establish the AFL's 18th club in rugby league heartland under foundation coach Kevin Sheedy.
But Lambert, the former Richmond and Brisbane midfielder, failed to get back into the industry after serving a 12-month ban for allowing Whitfield to sleep over at his family home in May 2015.
He and then Giants football boss Graeme "Gubby" Allan were accused of hiding Whitfield from drug testers, which both strongly denied.
Allan, now at St Kilda, also copped a one-year ban, while Whitfield was sidelined for six months.
Lambert has maintained close relationships with a number of Giants players including skipper Stephen Coniglio, star forward Toby Greene and Whitfield and was targeted in a bid to bolster the club's "connection".
Giants football boss Jason McCartney said Lambert's return was critical.
"With all the downsizing in the soft cap, it was just so front of mind for us to get someone experienced in that development space," McCartney said.
"It's bloody hard to do in Sydney, but you've got a bloke like that just under your nose.
"Lambo was the perfect fit. The quality and the experience, regardless of the fact that he's got the relationships from working here in the early days.
"He's going to really bolster the development side. We're rapt for him."
Coniglio's father, Sandro, last year said he was "saddened" by Lambert's ongoing absence from the game.
"To lose a guy like that is a huge blow. To still be out of football, I find that hard to fathom," he said.
"His knowledge, not only with football, but now with welfare is absolutely unbelievable.
"The boys respected (former GWS coach) Kevin Sheedy and whoever else, but I really believe that it was Craig who had a huge influence on them."
Lambert also played a key role in the coaches box during Brisbane's 2001-03 triple-premiership run under senior coach Leigh Matthews.
"He was incredibly valuable in the Lions era," Matthews said in 2019.
"In modern footy when you talk about empathy and relationship building and all that sort of stuff - that was something he was very good at before it became fashionable.
"He did the midfield coaching role but eventually moved into player welfare because he just had great ability in dealing with young players.
"Even before we had a job doing it, the Lamberts' household in Brisbane was always a second home for the young blokes, whether it was Brad or Chris Scott, going that far back."
Originally published as Footy's forgotten man Craig Lambert gets AFL lifeline