West Coast Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich insists her decision to axe Nat Medhurst wasn't personal, likening it to Hawthorn's move to part ways with AFL star Luke Hodge.
Fever fans have vented their anger after Medhurst was told last week she wouldn't be retained.
Medhurst was left shocked by the decision and is now expected to sign with either Collingwood Magpies or Adelaide Thunderbirds.
West Coast have recruited former Collingwood goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld.
Medhurst has been with Fever since 2014, choosing to stay put even when a host of the club's biggest stars left at the end of 2016.
The former Diamonds ace played a critical role in helping the club reach this year's grand final, combining brilliantly with 196cm Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler.
But given Medhurst will be 35 when the next season starts, Marinkovich has opted to make the hard decision to release the veteran now.
Marinkovich denied rumours that two other Fever players threatened to leave if Medhurst was retained, describing that talk as a "bit of a stretch".
The Fever mentor hopes Medhurst can thrive at an opposition club but it remains to be seen whether the shock decision to axe her will fracture their relationship forever.
"It's definitely not personal. She's a tremendous person and our decision isn't based on personality, it's a strategic direction for the club," Marinkovich said.
"You've got a salary cap. You can't always keep the group together.
"It's kind of like Hawthorn with Luke Hodge and him going to Brisbane.
"Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and give your youth a chance to get out on the court and show what they can do.
"We're looking for that three-year sustainability, so we have recruited with youth in our goal circle."
Hawks AFL coach Alastair Clarkson encouraged Sam Mitchell to join West Coast at the tail-end of his career and gave his blessing for Hodge to join the Lions when the four-time premiership captain was talked out of retiring.
But those two moves were far more harmonious than Medhurst's exit.
Marinkovich said she will wait for the dust to settle before reaching out to Medhurst again.
Fever have retained eight of their 10 players from last season, including stars such as Fowler, Courtney Bruce, Jess Anstiss, Verity Charles, Ingrid Colyer and Stacey Francis.
Australian Associated Press