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Early finals exits still stings Simpson

Nathan Schmook, AFL.com.au  March 18, 2017 3:00 PM

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Adam Simpson says 2016's season of underachievement hurt him badly

A wasted 2016 season took West Coast coach Adam Simpson longer to move on from than the heartbreak of a lost Grand Final the year before.

Simpson's Eagles made a staggering rise into the premiership decider in 2015, with the second-year coach's 'web' defence catching the rest of the competition off guard. 

It wasn't enough to overcome a champion Hawthorn team, but 'you have to lose one to win one' was a popular justification for tipping an Eagles premiership in 2016. 

Instead, they were the first victim of the eventual premiers, with the Western Bulldogs overcoming the odds at Domain Stadium to stun the in-form Eagles and leave Simpson hurting from a wasted season. 

"I didn't come over for the Grand Final … I cracked the s--ts; I was no good," Simpson told AFL.com.au.  

"I didn't handle it too well personally. It took me longer than the (2015) Grand Final just to move on. 

"You put a lot of work into one game and we were pretty disappointed about that game (against the Bulldogs). 

"We are probably at that stage where we expect to win every game we play, and there's only one team that's happy every year." 

The Eagles matched their 16 wins from 2015 last year, but Simpson said he agreed with the perception that they hadn't won them in the same way, or been as convincing.   

This year, the Eagles' stand-out trait through the pre-season has been aggressive ball movement from half-back, with a risky style serving them well through the JLT Community Series.

It's a game style that looks likely to transfer into the season, with Simpson encouraged by the balance his team has found between attack and defence.

"We tested our limits in a couple of the games we played in the JLT Series," the coach said.

"It's pleasing, because we want to play pretty bold footy, but it can't be reckless.

"We still kept Melbourne to 70 points, Freo under 60 points, and we kept the Giants to 70 points. 

"We want to take the game on and we want to score, so we'll have a crack … I don't think it's reckless, it's just finding the balance."

The key to carrying out West Coast's aggressive style is skill, which the coach described as "pretty sharp" following the inclusion of former Hawk Sam Mitchell and the growth of younger players. 

Deeper contributions and performing on the big stage when it really matters were also keys for the Eagles.    

"We just need more consistency from our 22," Simpson said.

"We've got some top-end talent who turn up every week, and a lot of the time it depends of them.

"We need to have a whole 22 contributing, not just (Matt) Priddis, (Luke) Shuey, 'JK' (Josh Kennedy) and these guys.

"Then it's doing it when it really matters … that's anyone's challenge."