After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (2024)

He arrived with dyed, greyinghair and left with it close to white: there went Adam Simpson, into the great scrap yard forAFL coaches.

It's the same place all of them end up after their time in the madhouse ends, whether they're pushed or go willingly.

Some of them, the onesstill in half-decent nick, might get picked up again to see if they run any better second time around.

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As always with second-hand vehicles, the results vary.

After nearly 11 years on the job, when it came down to it,Simpson's recent record – eightwins in his last three seasons as West Coast Eagles coach – was not survivable. He was nolonger roadworthy.

It wasn't all his fault.

After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (1)

After an unlikely flag in 2018, the clubthought their premiership window was wide open, and they went all in on Tim Kelly.

Unbeknownst to many,especially to Tim, the list was poised on a cliff's edge, and somewhere in the back half of 2021 they went tumbling off it.

Simpson was left to try and win games – the metric by which he's judged – with a squad of men either not fit enough or good enough to help him keep his job.

The arrival of Harley Reid, a reasonable run with injury and three wins this year whet the appetite of Eagles fans, and perhaps over inflated their sense of what was achievable this year.

But against North Melbourne, they were lamentable for three quarters. Against Hawthorn they were simply lamentable.

In the end the levee broke.

Not a ranter or a raver

Simpson was a North Melbourne legend who was coached by Denis Pagan as the Kangaroos enjoyed a dominant era in the late 1990s.

He had a ringside seat to how a football club can come apart, when Wayne Carey was sensationally sacked after a relationship with the wife of his teammate, Anthony Stevens.

Simpson headed west after serving a four-yearapprenticeship under that most alpha of AFL coaches, Alastair Clarkson.

After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (2)

According to former Eagles skipper Ross Glendinning, on the day after he was appointed he addressed Eagles staff and said: "I'm not going to rant and rave about a whole lot of footy philosophies, I'll just tell you what I am:I'm a communicator and an educator."

He and his assistants reinvented the Eagles defence in 2015 after season-ending injuries to key backmen Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown, contributing to theside makingthe grand final.


And three years later, he helped the club lift its most unlikely premiership of all – smack bang in the middle of a Richmond dynasty.

Speaking on the ABC AFL Daily podcast after hearing the news of Simpson's departure, Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos said his legacy was secure.

"He is a premiership coach for the West Coast Eagles – he will always be welcomed back to that football club as a premiership coach," Roos said.

Art vs science

Perhaps the thing that impressed mostabout Simpson was his thoughtfulness.

Two years into his tenure,at a lecture at a Perth university, he reflected on his longevity in the game.

After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (3)

"I think there's still so much of a balance between art and science, and when I say art I mean how you treat people, your empathy," he said.

"If I had to talk to you guys every day, how would you be in four years?

"My next challenge is 'what do I do to keep these guys engaged'?"

Every Monday last season, there he'd be on the Eagles website, fronting the 'Ask Simmo' segment, where he'd be thrown some easy ones by his former defender Will Schofield.

Without fail he'd manage to find a little cheer after another spirit-sapping defeat.

After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (4)

The past two years have been surreal for Eagles fans.

The local paper put Simpson'sface on a Mr Grumpy cartoon. On another day he had a Burger King crown on his head.

There seemed aninexhaustible well of ex-Eagles players calling for him to be sacked, none too obscure.

You always got the feeling Simpson, in the cutthroat world of AFL coaching, was a sensitive soul.

At post-match press conferences after one of his players had been injured – from superstars like Nic Naitanui, to a mid-season pick like Jai Culley – you could almost feel the hurt.

Once my partner looked at my phone as I watched one of these press conferences and declared that Simmo looked like he "needs to cry".

After the last couple of seasons, who could blame him?

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After 11 years, Eagles coach Adam Simpson leaves lasting legacy in AFL madhouse (2024)
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