The Roar
The Roar



TOM MORRIS: Adam Simpson is exhausted and the Eagles are a rabble. It's time for an amicable split

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12th June, 2023
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For those unfamiliar, a ‘situationship’ is less than a relationship but more than a casual encounter.

It’s a state of silent flux between two parties, often without a clean exit strategy.

Yep, Adam Simpson and West Coast are in a situationship, unlikely to sever ties harmoniously but incapable of further commitment to see through a lengthy rebuild.

It’s an awkward position, made even more tenuous by West Coast’s abhorrent last 11 games, none of which they’ve lost by fewer than 40 points.

Comparisons to Fitzroy have been made across the weekend. It’s a bit mischievous. West Coast will not fold any time soon and remain a financial powerhouse, averaging 44,000 crowds at home games this year.

The club is in good shape, even if the team and the list is in tatters in a Fitzroy-type mould.

The link that’s more relevant is Simpson’s record across the last two years compared to sacked coaches of the past.


Brendon Bolton won four of his last 42 games at Carlton. Mark Neeld won five from 33 at Melbourne.

Simpson, who is contracted until the end of 2025, has won three of his last 37 matches.

There is only one reason a coach survives numbers like that: a premiership.

Winning a flag has provided Simpson with cushioning not afforded to Ross Lyon in 2019, nor Nathan Buckley in 2021, nor Leon Cameron in 2022.

His success in 2018 – if only thanks to Dom Sheed’s dead-eye left boot – has allowed Simpson to be the master of his own domain, though obviously not in the Seinfeld sense.

The premiership embedded West Coast to Simpson and Simpson to West Coast for the long term; but it was also the first domino to fall en route to the situation we see today.


In typical sliding doors fashion, there is a strong chance if Sheed pushed his kick wide and the Magpies held on to win by one point, Buckley would still be coaching and Simpson would not.

As it stands, West Coast’s hands are tied. Even if they wanted to sack Simpson, it would cost them around $2 million. Every cent of that would come from the soft cap.

While poorer clubs such as St Kilda and Gold Coast have six-month clauses mandated in coaching contracts, the Eagles do not. They are wealthy and operate independently from the AFL dime.

If West Coast sacked Simpson, they would be forced to make a choice. Either employ fewer coaches and disadvantage the players at the beginning of a rebuild, or pay the football department tax.

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For every dollar they spend over the $7 million soft cap, they would be required to pay a further 75 cents in tax.


As a reference, Hawthorn managed to pay Alastair Clarkson $900,000 in two instalments across 2022.

The club said they paid less than $50,000 in tax for exceeding the soft cap. The entire payout, not including entitlements, was reported in Hawthorn’s 2021 finances and reduced the overall profit from more than $1 million to $255,474.

If Simpson was sacked this week, he would be owed two and a half years of wages. It would be fiscally irresponsible to do so.

Simpson, who negotiated a new deal in early 2021, rightly deserves every cent of his contract if that is a priority for him.

If so, he won’t leave and the club won’t sack him. But surely both parties would privately agree a clean break and fresh start would be mutually beneficial.

So, what’s the solution? Nisbett and Simpson need to sit down and come to an agreement which does not leave either party dissatisfied.

They need to avoid a Clarkson/Hawthorn 2.0 mess.

Adam Simpson chats with Jayden Hunt.

Adam Simpson. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Simpson should ask to be paid for the rest of this year and probably into 2024 as well, or at least until he finds a new senior position in football. This will give him ample time to enjoy a well-earned break, assess what’s next and find a new job.

West Coast would surely be able to absorb, let’s say, $1 million into the soft cap across the next 18 months. In this scenario, Simpson leaves the club on good terms and receives a substantial payout.

A break-up suits Simpson because frankly he looks overwhelmingly exhausted. Who can blame him? Three 100-plus point losses hurt, especially when you consider two of these were against fellow bottom four teams.

A break-up suits West Coast because they clearly need a fresh start and new voice to lead a full scale rebuild which, I hate to say it, has not even begun yet.

Like Damien Hardwick, Simpson would attract suitors on the open market. If not this year, then next. Remember, the 47-year-old is a premiership coach and consequently, his cushion is long-lasting.

Anyone who has been in one will know that most situationships end awkwardly or acrimoniously.


This one, if West Coast and Simpson are smart, does not have to be either.