Player availability no excuse for Eagles

A DOWNBEAT West Coast coach Adam Simpson insists the Eagles’ current crisis is only “a moment in time” and doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for the club.

The decimated Eagles fell to an 0-3 record after a 55-point defeat to rivals Fremantle in Sunday’s Western Derby at Optus Stadium.

West Coast has been unprecedently ravaged by injuries and players heading into health and safety protocols this season, with only six players having turned out in all three of their games this year.

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The Eagles were forced into 12 changes to the side which lost to North Melbourne with top-up players in round two, with skipper Luke Shuey, Willie Rioli and Liam Duggan among those entering protocols, joining Tom Barrass, Elliot Yeo, Jamie Cripps, Oscar Allen, Tom Cole, Tim Kelly and Dom Sheed on the sidelines.

“It’s a hard one to assess,” Simpson said about the loss to Fremantle. “We’re pretty disjointed at the moment but we don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us or making excuses.

“We are battling to get that synergy as I suspected today. There were moments where we looked pretty connected, but there were a lot of moments where Fremantle outworked us and beat us with fundamentals. We looked pretty poor at stages there.”

West Coast was coming off honourable losses to Gold Coast and North Melbourne in its opening two games but the Fremantle defeat, which was its lowest derby score, appeared to sting Simpson harder.

“We have been pushing hard the spirit and belonging,” he said. “We need to rely on that. They are the intangibles that make it special to be at a football club.

“Dealing with resilience, the club has done it well over 35 years – this is a moment in time.”

The Eagles welcomed back 10 players straight out of protocols, although Simpson said it was hard to measure the potential physical impact of COVID or being in isolation on those individuals’ performances.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think any club has gone through what we have with 10 guys coming in.

“Maybe we could have managed that better. I don’t know how we could have, because there’s no one else available.”

Simpson had no clarity on players returning from protocols for next week’s game away to Collingwood, but ruled out Kelly (hamstring) or Yeo (calf) being available.

Despite the lack of immediate relief, the Eagles coach insisted the club was embracing the situation, not using it as an excuse.

“That’s a challenge and one that we’re up for,” Simpson said. “They’re not excuses, they’re reasons – but I think we could have played better.

“You don’t have to win every week, but our effort and intensity was probably a little bit inconsistent. I don’t want to just put it down to the fact that we had 10 guys coming back from COVID.”

Fremantle was led by Jaymie Graham, who sat in the coaching seat with Justin Longmuir placed into the AFL’s protocols on Thursday.

Graham was delighted with the Dockers’ response after last week’s 10-point loss to St Kilda, in the absence of key players Nat Fyfe (back), David Mundy (protocols), Sean Darcy (ankle) and Caleb Serong (knee).

“We thought it was quite a mature performance given we were one of the younger teams in the competition this weekend,” he said.

Darcy Tucker was stretchered off in a scary incident early in the third quarter but Graham revealed he was “bubbly” in the rooms after the game and in good health.


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