MITCHELL JOHNSON: West Coast Eagles players needed change

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
Adam Simpson steps down as coach of the West Coast.
Adam Simpson steps down as coach of the West Coast. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Adam Simpson’s record as West Coast coach can be analysed by people who know more about footy than me.

But it seems to me Simpson was respected by the vast majority of players he coached and staff he worked with during more than a decade at the Eagles.

Coach sackings are never pretty and I’m not a big fan of it happening during the season. The timing raises questions about why he was backed after last season and all the talk from the club over the summer about how he was still the man for the job.

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But rightly or wrongly, the trigger has been pulled. And I still think change is good in these circumstances. After three seasons where wins were few and far between, the players need that change.

They need someone new, a new coach to stamp his mark on the team, to challenge them in a new and different way. Someone to get them thinking in a way that isn’t the same as it has been over the past few years.

The comfort of sticking with what’s known isn’t always the best way forward, as they tried this season with Simpson. But fans shouldn’t expect it to just happen going forward under a new coach either.

I went through a few different coaches throughout my cricket career at first-class and international level.

One of the most noticeable changes I can remember was when Darren Lehmann was appointed coach of the national team after we had an interesting run when Mickey Arthur was in the role.

All the coaches I had in my career had strengths and weaknesses, just like the players did. But I won’t ever forget the first group meeting I was in with Lehmann and the effect it had on me.

He said something along the lines of ‘you are playing for your country, how bloody good is that?!’ He told us that every time we go out on the field, we should be playing hard and training hard but also enjoying it, having fun and enjoying the successes.

For me, having just come back into the team after injury, it was a great message and a great mantra to play by. It didn’t stop at that first meeting either. Boof would always remind us of how good it was to play for Australia. We all believed it and it was something that stuck with me and I’m sure others.

Lehmann also challenged us on many things. He was trying to get the best out of us as sportsmen, but also as people.

Simpson must have had a great bond with his players. He coached some of them for nearly 11 years, guiding them from their teenage years and seeing some of them become married men with children.

Yes it takes more than just words and having a bond, but it’s an important part of being a coach I believe. Ultimately, the results must be there but how do you get results as coach?

Coaching in cricket and footy are very different. Aussie rules is a contact sport, unlike cricket, and you can see AFL coaches in general are a little more in players’ faces and give big motivational speeches. The coaching style of all football codes leans more towards that aggressive, in your face approach and encourages players to push through a bit of pain.

One of my first coaches at Queensland was Bennett King. I was young and excited to be in the squad and training with the big boys. And that first pre-season with King at the helm was brutal.

I had heard he had a background in rugby league and he was built strong, so he wasn’t to be messed with. And he absolutely nailed us!

It was a rude awakening for me. I had a love-hate feeling about that style of training but it taught me to build some resilience.

I knew that to get the best out of us, we had to work hard as a team. Help each other through sessions, no shortcuts.

We copped the occasional spray from the coach along the way, but that was just the way and it was a great learning experience about what my body and mind was capable of.

For the West Coast players, staff and fans, the new chapter begins. Whoever takes over the reins has a great opportunity to grow and mould this team over the next few years.

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