West Coast chairman refuses to put time line on rebuilding club, but says team must improve

West Coast Eagles chairman Russell Gibbs says there is no time frame on the club’s rebuild, but some improvement is expected over the next year.

The Eagles sit 18th on the AFL ladder after a disastrous start to the season, which has seen the side win just a single game, and lose four consecutive matches by 63 points or more.

The club has been hit hard by injury and COVID-related unavailability, but has also endured self-inflicted stumbles, with several players attending a nightclub as COVID-19 numbers in Western Australia rose.

Jake Waterman and Jackson Nelson were among the seven players fined.(Getty Images: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

Speculation about the future of chief executive Trevor Nisbett and coach Adam Simpson prompted Gibbs to write a letter to supporters in which threw his support behind the pair to lead the club out of its predicament.

The Eagles have several young players who are yet to feature at AFL level. Gibbs said until the club was able to establish its list, there would be no time line imposed on the rebuild.

Adam Simpson looks on during the 2022 AFL Round 04 match between the Collingwood Magpies and West Coast Eagles
Adam Simpson has the support of the Eagles board to turn things around at the struggling club.(Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“I don’t think it would be fair to say, ‘Well, Adam [Simpson], if you don’t do this within two years you’re gone, or three years.’ I just don’t think that we’re in a position to be doing that,” he told ABC Radio Perth on Saturday.

But he said there would have to be signs of things turning around in the near future.

“We have to see improvement without doubt,” he said.

“But I stress again, at this point, there is no time [frame] on that. I’d like to see everyone playing together and we’ll go forward from there.

“I can’t put a time on it. All I can do is ask people just to continue to support the club as we go through this.”

Rebuild through the draft

The Eagles have finally acknowledged a rebuild of its playing list is needed and it will use the draft to achieve those ends. But Gibbs refused to be drawn on the future of several veterans.

Luke Shuey and Shannon Hurn of the Eagles after their loss during the 2022 AFL Round 06 match against the Port Adelaide Power
Luke Shuey and Shannon Hurn are two veterans out of contract at the end of the 2022 season.(James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Shannon Hurn, Josh Kennedy, Nic Naitanui and Luke Shuey are out of contract, along with 250-gamer Jack Redden.

“Those decisions have to be made by the football department, the coach, selectors, given who is available to replace any player that may not be playing for us. It is out of my jurisdiction.”

But the rebuild won’t revolve solely around players, with the club to investigate its long injury list, which includes several soft-tissue injuries.

“Some of the soft-tissue injuries, perhaps they can be avoided,” Gibbs said.

“Is it the way that we train, is it the ground that we run on? What is the cause? We can’t accept the fact that we are getting those injuries.”

Board working on succession plan

Gibbs said Nisbett remained the best person to guide the club through those issues, but conceded the board was working on a succession plan for the longtime chief executive.

West Coast Eagles Chief Executive Officer Trevor Nisbett speaks at a press conference
Trevor Nisbett remains entrusted to lead the Eagles’ rebuild, as the club plans for several years of pain.(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

“He’s taken us through, certainly in the past couple of years, one of the toughest times that’s ever hit the AFL,” he said.

“Now we’re hitting a very, very tough time when it comes to on-field. And we believe that Trevor remains, at this point, the person [to guide the club through that].

“Having said that, I’m not hiding away from the fact that Trevor’s succession, like any good organisation, will continue to be looked at.”

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