All football clubs should be measured by the win-loss column, not bank balances or corporate power.
There is no premiership table in the world that awards competition points or percentage based on how much money is on the balance sheet and how many big corporate logos are on the club jumper.
West Coast was once powerful on the football field, winning games, collecting flags and proving the value of a national football competition for our national game.
Today, West Coast is the shadow of a once-feared empire — on and off the field.
It still has money in the bank — quite an achievement during the COVID pandemic. It has massive corporate power in Perth. And there is a solid membership base but how long will this last if the Eagles continue with the status quo on the football field?
West Coast have to get their collective head out of the sand. Long-serving chief executive Trevor Nisbett might even have to get out of the chair to allow for a new regime to establish a new set of values at the Eagles — values based on the old themes of winning games, collecting premierships and proving the Eagles are, as their club song says, “kings of the big game”.
Since the 2018 AFL premiership, West Coast has won — year-by-year — 15, 12, 10 and two games a season. If this corporate monolith was on the stock exchange, the brokers would be bailing.
By any measure, this year’s team is the worst-performed in the club’s history.
West Coast finished 17th of 18 with two wins and a sickly percentage of 59.8. It lost 10 games by 50 points or more.
The poor performances, lack of discipline and the falling standards were not just on the field.
During the past two seasons, the Eagles have played a dull brand of football. They score just 64 points per game on average. The team moves the ball slowly and without dare.
The typically passionate Eagle fan base is not impressed. The fans have voted with their feet.
Home attendances have dropped to an average 36,736 — the lowest (outside the COVID lockdowns) since 2015 when West Coast played to a smaller capacity at Subiaco Oval.
After the round seven defeat to Richmond at home, seven players breached COVID protocols by attending Hip-E Club.
Nisbett labelled the players’ actions “a real slap in the face for our processes and guidelines”.
It would be difficult for any player and coach Adam Simpson to be seen in public this off-season.
They carry — as they should — the embarrassment this year’s performances have created. But they will probably be adored as the rock stars that Eagles players often become in Perth. This does not help.
Nisbett is not hiding. This week, he fronted the Channel Seven cameras for a sit-down interview with Ryan Daniels.
Despite the club’s dire season and fallen image, Nisbett is selling a glossy prospectus. He guaranteed Simpson’s future and recommitted to the club’s ageing veterans.
“We’re certainly not going to discard people who have still got a fair bit of football left in them,” he said.
It is hard to move on at West Coast as Nisbett proves himself despite recent observations from many fine judges that West Coast needs new, fresh leadership.
In the changerooms, the club appears frightened — or is too pig-headed — to make the hard call on its veterans Luke Shuey, Shannon Hurn, Nic Naitanui and Jack Redden.
They are refusing to aggressively rebuild the list, as it should have done 12 months ago when it was apparent the Eagles were about to fall off a cliff.
Nisbett repeatedly reiterated the importance of keeping the experienced players to help guide the young players … and who are these young players that have been ignored in the list-management disaster that is West Coast?
The names of these young players are hard to find and they certainly do not roll off the tongue.
It is worrying that West Coast is the only club without a nominee in recent the AFL Players’ Association 40-man 22under22 squad. Across the Swan River, Fremantle had six nominees.
Nisbett refused to answer a question about the fitness of midfielder Elliot Yeo. He has appeared physically out of shape this season and managed just five games.
He predictably labelled me a “shock jock”, which doesn’t help Eagles fans who must be wondering what’s gone wrong with their All-Australian midfielder.
Yeo, 28, has missed 33 games in the last three years.
Despite multiple players appearing out of shape during the season, the club denies the squad has been afforded liberties in upholding fitness standards.
Faced with reports that West Coast has seven players collecting a big chunk of the club’s $13 million annual salary cap, Nisbett says the club is in a strong position.
“We’re in a very good position in regards to our total player payments, we’re in a very good position moving forward, and if there was a free agent or there’s an opportunity to get someone in who’s an A-grade player, we’ll do that,” he told 7NEWS.
Melbourne premiership ruckman Luke Jackson agreed to terms with Fremantle months ago and will officially sign with the Dockers during the upcoming trade period; Nisbett, however, thinks the Eagles are still a chance of setting up a detour for this homecoming Demon.
“If he wants to come home, there are two teams in Perth, so we’d be interested if that is what his agenda is,” he said.
Nisbett has sat in the club’s chief executive office since 1999. He is comfortable when spinning his way out of a tricky situation.
It showed in his interview with Channel Seven.
It is a shame the Eagles are in denial.
They will start season 2023 with the same chief executive, coach, fitness standards, and the majority of the disappointing 2022 playing list intact.
Change is needed at West Coast. And not just in the changerooms.