The Roar
The Roar



If West Coast's hellish week resembled a political leadership spill, Nisbett and Simpson don't have the numbers

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30th May, 2023

The West Coast Eagles’ unrelentingly hellish week had all the intrigue, skullduggery, instability and leaks of a political party on the brink of a leadership spill.

The rumours and scuttlebutt swirling around the corridors of Eagles’ HQ might not have had the bloodthirsty lust of the heady days of federal politics when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were taking turns knifing each other, but it’s clear a gaping chasm is emerging at West Coast.

The chitchat coming out of the Eagles according to The West Australian, is the powerbrokers at the club are sharpening their knives but are conflicted about whether to plunge the blade in coach Adam Simpson or CEO Trevor Nisbett.

The West Coast board has crunched the numbers but are split down the middle over which one should be shown the door.

True or not, Nisbett and Simpson can’t be impervious to the white noise surrounding their futures and might want to decline any last-moment invitations to dinner with the board.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Simpson would be the first person sacrificed because of the Eagles’ horror run of form, but I may have woefully neglected that when a club is in crisis things are never that straightforward.

And Nisbett, who has been the club’s CEO since 1999, hasn’t exactly offered up any upbeat assurances that Simpson is the man to propel the club back up the ladder.

Adam Simpson chats with Jayden Hunt.

Adam Simpson chats with Jayden Hunt. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)


Whatever rumpus is rumbling away at the Eagles, the board isn’t sitting cross-legged in a drum circle sharing sweet moments about their coach and CEO.

There appears to be an urgency to turf someone out to stop the rot, even if the board’s intentions are somewhat undefined.

Despite several subplots bubbling away in the bowels of West Coast, the club can’t disguise how overwhelmingly calamitous the last seven days have been.

Football clubs enjoy nothing better than rolling out that banal, overblown idiom, “of taking one week at a time”, but West Coast would kill for a do-over.

The week started off grim for the Eagles as the club plummeted to an all-time low after an old-fashioned shellacking at the hands of the Hawks, who were sitting one place below them on the ladder.

Pundits were swift in calling it the darkest day in West Coast’s 37-year history.

There were unwanted records. The third-lowest score in the club’s history. The solitary grab by Oscar Allen in the goal square was the least amount of marks ever taken in the forward 50 by West Coast.


And a record number of ex-AFL players were clambering over themselves, like overzealous, critical parents at a beauty pageant, calling for Simpson to be sacked.

The 2018 premiership coach looked toast.

But to be fair to Simpson his case wasn’t helped after a series of baffling and conflicting reports emerged earlier in the week claiming he had been offered a three-month sojourn at the end of the season to freshen up.

The story seemed plausible given days earlier Damien Hardwick stunned the football world by quitting as Richmond coach, claiming the rigours of the job all became a bit too much.

Giving Simpson time away from the club seemed like a charitable and admirable move by the club.

But West Coast came out swinging denying the 47-year-old had asked to take a short sabbatical.

The Eagles took to Twitter to put out any bushfires: “Reports that senior coach Adam Simpson has been asked to take a three-month break at the end of the season are inaccurate. No such discussion has taken place.”


In football parlance, it was play on, nothing in it. Or so it seemed.

According to The West Australian, West Coast’s faithful flak catcher for the last two decades, Gary Stocks leaked a text to an east coast newspaper saying: “When our season ends he will be encouraged to take an extended break to refresh.”

I have no doubt Stocks’ text was well-intended or maybe he just found some travel brochures lying around on Simpson’s desk?

Anyone with a basic grasp of politics knows that when leaks start pouring out of a political party or this case a footy club someone is going to get the chop. Leaks are part of the fabric of politics but more often than not, they’re fueled by the desire to destabilise a party.

By mid-week Simpson went on Radio 6PR to hose down any suggestions he didn’t have the backing of the West Coast board.

“You’re the coach until you’re not the coach,” he said as if channeling Ted Lasso. “I’m aware of that, that doesn’t worry me. I have got a long contract at the moment, but that doesn’t … whatever they need to do they need to do.”


“Whatever is best for the club we should do.”

Jai Culley of the Eagles.

Jai Culley of the Eagles. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The problem is, West Coast is currently divided about what is best for the club and their spin doctors have allegedly gone rogue.

West Coast supporters have been savage and childish in their dim-witted abuse of Simpson and the Eagles but the genuine strangeness of the media wrangling within the club recently must be testing the tolerance of the fans.

The Eagles finished the week as it started with a thumping loss, this time to Essendon. West Coast played with a lot more grit and vigour but in the end, poor decision-making and skill errors let them down again.

At the halfway mark of the season, the Eagles are firmly rooted at the bottom of the table with one win and a shocking percentage of 54.8.

But what is more damaging for West Coast, is the on-field woes are penetrating into the inner workings of the club causing ruptures on the board that don’t look like healing anytime soon given their lowly position on the ladder.


But if politics has taught us anything when a party is fractured down the middle there can be only one left standing. With a fractious board baying for blood, it could be just a matter of time before Simpson or Nisbett depart the club.

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