A few weeks on from the elimination final loss, how do you look back on the season for the West Coast Eagles?
“Overall, we’re disappointed where we ended up. I think we had pretty good opportunity to capitalise after a slow start and not getting that top four spot really cost us. But no excuses going into the elimination final, we had players back and we weren’t good enough on the night, which was extremely disappointing from our point of view.”
All of your interstate players have had to stay here (since the end of the season) because of concerns about getting them back in (to Western Australia) if they don’t?
“All of our staff and our players with interstate families, including me actually, we’re not allowed to get back into the state unless we’ve left for compassionate grounds under the current regulations, which is difficult and probably disappointing for a lot of our guys because getting back to family – at least for a short period of time – during the off-season is pretty important for all of us. They’re the laws, though, and we have to abide by them at the moment. Hopefully they change up shortly.”
We saw a handful of list changes last week and there is a handful of players still waiting to see what happens, can you tell us where Lewis Jetta sits at the moment?
“He’s in that group you just identified of players that are out of contract and pending final decisions around list sizes and TPP (Total Player Payments), and then some final list movement possibly through the Trade Period and through free agency that we’re looking at at the moment. We’ll make those calls over the next three or four weeks. Darren Glass is leading that up for us as our list manager and we’re fairly advanced. The guys are really clear where the club sits and the potential opportunities that may pop up.”
Does that include Mark Hutchings, Nathan Vardy and Brendon Ah Chee, are they in that group?
“They are, yep.”
Willie Rioli, do we have an update on a hearing for him?
“That’s looking like it’s going to be in late November or early December, we’re hoping. David Grace (QC) is in full throttle (preparing). We’ve had several meetings post-season and even at the end of the season regarding prep for that hearing, so we’re in good hands. That’s looking like late November or early December. We probably won’t get a determination until early new year, David’s thinking.”
Will Willie go and appear at the hearing?
“At this stage it’s not final either way, but we’re thinking it’s more unlikely than likely.”
Is the process under ASADA-WADA control more so than the AFL?
“It is in an individual circumstance an ASADA-WADA thing but it’s a system the AFL signed up for compliance with, and this isn’t the first time a delay of this nature occurred. Sam Murray (from Collingwood) was one of the later ones where it was a very similar circumstance where you’ve got an individual who has obviously done the wrong thing, but it’s agonising in terms of the wait. Whilst it’s not the AFL that are delaying things in the individual circumstance, it’s the system that we signed up for which repetitively creates the same set of facts – in our case Willie. So that’s the decision I think that needs to be determined going forward.”
Daniel Venables, we understood you were seeking special dispensation to keep him on the list, where is that at?
“Daniel, fortunately, we’ve been really pleased (for him) and for his family as well, he turned the corner probably four or five months ago with the treatment that he’d been undergoing and he’s feeling so much better than he was at that stage. It’s going to be really strictly a medical call that we’ll make with him, and very much the bigger picture issues in mind as we work through that call, but we’d like to give him as much time as possible. If that means he’s unable to participate in the pre-season and the medical people are saying ‘give him further time’ then we’re happy to do that. We’re just looking at some mechanisms under the rules that enable us to effectively make him inactive for a period of time but we’re able then to call him back onto our list when appropriate. We’re working through that at the moment and we’re making some good ground with the AFL.”
Why has it taken so long for the AFL to give you playing list sizes and salary cap for next season?
“There has been talk of 42 (players), there has been talk of 40, there has been talk of transition to a number, and then there has been talk about different percentages of decrease in TPP. The reality of it is there’s an existing agreement in place for the next two years between the League and the PA (Players’ Association) under a CBA. I would only assume that if a party is seeking to change that, which is obviously the AFL and not the players, it becomes a negotiation. In that negotiation I think various things have been thrown up apart from just the list sizes and payment structure. There’s all sorts of things they’re talking about which complicate the discussion and they haven’t reached an agreement. We need to know the numbers we’re dealing with, both in terms of the list size and how much capacity we’ve got to pay.”
Zac Langdon, we understand he is keen to come home and play, can you confirm that?
“Zac is keen to come back to Perth and play for the Eagles and we’re keen to have him on board. We’ve already had some productive discussion with Zac’s management Colin Young and also (Greater Western Sydney list manager) Jason McCartney, as I mentioned Darren Glass is leading that. We’re confident that should be a fairly straightforward deal.”
From what we read Jordan Clark is more unlikely than likely, is that fair to say?
“That’s my understanding. He’s a wonderful young talent but he’s very much committed in terms of a two-year contract to Geelong and my understanding is they’re keen to retain him. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”
Are you expecting to have a WAFL team next season given the $3m reduction in football department spending cap?
“A couple of things, it’s closer to $3.5m out of our spend and we’ll run with at least three less coaches (next year) which is tragic in my view and a backward step, but that’s what we’ve go to do, less wellbeing staff as well and likelihood, even though we don’t know a final number, less players. From my point of view and the club’s point of view, we’re still working with the (WAFC) to try to achieve an acceptable outcome. Farming our players out to all clubs is not going to be an acceptable outcome, we won’t be doing that in any circumstance. We’re working on what the solution looks like.”
Would an acceptable outcome be players not from WA play together, and others play from their WAFL club of origin?
“No, that won’t be acceptable. We’re comfortable with some form of alignment model. Alternatively, we’ll look at our own team, but we’ll need some changes to some very restrictive rules to enable us to get a group of players together to help us blend in with our players and put a competitive team out that puts the integrity of the competition at the right level.”
You’ve had to play a licence fee, what’s your understanding how that would fit in the (football department) soft cap?
“It sits outside the soft cap, but due to the economy that we’re now in there’s no way – that’s Trevor’s (CEO Trevor Nisbett) area – but it’s my understanding there’s no way the club will be playing anywhere near the previous licence fee.”
Could you see a situation where you just play scrimmages next year?
“If we’re back in a COVID situation with protocols that’s the likelihood, but not in a perfect world, no.”
What about AFLW, might they need to go into a hub next year?
“We’re waiting on information from the AFL on how that might look. That’s not ideal that they hub because they’re part-time athletes who have largely full-time jobs, so it would be an enormous burden upon them potentially if there are hubs. But at this stage, we haven’t got any detail as to what it (the season) might look like and how it might work.”