Jack Darling of the Eagles.
Jack Darling of the Eagles.

‘I was wrong’: Big fear turns to Eagles’ menacing strength

IF WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson had his way when building plans were drawn up, the dimensions of Optus Stadium would've mirrored Subiaco Oval's.

But Simpson is happy to admit his initial thinking was wrong, saying the MCG-like dimensions at the new home ground have given the Eagles a better chance to play their brand.

The Eagles have shocked most AFL pundits this season to sit on top of the ladder after Round 10, winning all but one of their home games.

The Eagles developed an excellent home ground advantage on the long, narrow expanses of Subiaco Oval (175m x 120m) over recent years, with interstate clubs often struggling to adjust to the dimensions.

Yet unlike Subi, the Optus Stadium dimensions (165m x 130m) are almost identical to both major Melbourne venues - Etihad Stadium and MCG (both 160m x 129m) - especially in width.

Simpson told Fox Footy's On The Couch he, originally, favoured having Subiaco Oval-like dimensions at Burswood - but his attitude had quickly flipped.

"If you had have asked me, I would've said keep it skinny and long … but that's what I'm saying, I was wrong," Simpson said.

Josh Kennedy of the Eagles.
Josh Kennedy of the Eagles.


"I would've thought have an advantage, have something that teams have to plan and prepare for and we'll get better over (in Melbourne), because it's not the No. 1 thing you worry about. You want to get enough wins to play finals and then if you do that, you want to play top four.

"But I think I was a bit off on that one."

The Eagles will soon move into new club facilities in Lathlain once completed, but the playing group has already worked on the new training base's two ovals, which are the size of Optus Stadium and the MCG respectively.

The benefits have been enormous, according to Simpson.

"All pre-season, we got to use that ground. Then to train and play at Optus, I do feel like we can play that brand anywhere," Simpson said.

"Playing at home had so many advantages of a skinny, long ground that you couldn't help but flip into that mode a little bit. Even training for a bigger ground in the west was difficult, we couldn't find any. We'd train at Subi and train across the ground.

"All that sort of stuff is gone now. We prepare better and hopefully we make Optus a unique stadium for us, which I think is heading that way."

Simpson has also played a huge part in implementing a tactical and selection tweak.

Jamie Cripps’ Eagles are in hot form.
Jamie Cripps’ Eagles are in hot form.

Unlike last season, the Eagles are playing more genuine forwards - both tall and small - in their forward 50, which has led to the club having the third-best offence and second-best percentage in the league.

"Last year, our philosophy was 'who's the next best player?' If we didn't have too many options in the forward line, we'd play a midfielder and try and get a bit more rotation through the middle," Simpson said.

"But this year we've stuck fat with saying 'let's play this many forwards and make sure they play their role'."

Arguably the only negative distraction for Simpson and the Eagles at the moment is the contract situations for star duo Andrew Gaff and Jeremy McGovern, who both remain unsigned beyond this season.

As reports continue to emerge about rival clubs' interest in the players, Simpson said he and the club would continue to "grow them as best as we can".

"What do you do? You've just got to keep backing them in," Simpson said.

"We love them, more than just the players - we love what they give to us as a club. We want to keep them, so we're doing everything we can.

"They're not trying to muck us around … they're not holding off for the right time. When they make the call, they'll tell us."

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