WEST Coast has reviewed all of its injury prevention protocols and undergone weekly reviews of its training surfaces as a new team of high performance staff raise the intensity of pre-season training for the rebuilding team.
Adam Simpson, meanwhile, has headed to the United States this week on a study trip as the premiership coach aims to continue to "evolve and improve" ahead of his 11th season in charge.
After two seasons severely impacted by injury, the Eagles made significant change through their football department at the end of 2023 as five new appointments were made and eight staff moved into different roles. The changes followed seven new appointments at the end of 2022.
Two key recent additions were Mathew Inness as high performance manager from the Western Bulldogs and Paul Turk as strength and conditioning coach from Collingwood. They join ex-Sydney strength and conditioning coach Mark Kilgallon, who is entering his second year at the club.
General manager of football Gavin Bell said the changes had introduced new philosophies to the club and resulted in high intensity off-season and pre-season programs for the players, while also coinciding with reviewed injury prevention measures.
"We revisited our injury prevention program and protocols, and it's about making sure that training continues to reflect what the game demands," Bell told AFL.com.au this week.
"There are separate programs prior to and after training that our strength and conditioning, and medical and physio staff do. But it's also within training and what training looks like and making sure it reflects the demands of the game.
"There's slightly different philosophies with new staff coming in and where our group is at. So what the priority was last year, things evolve and change, and we've had different priorities this off-season and through the early stages of pre-season."
Given the unprecedented nature of West Coast's injury issues across 2022-23, the club's training surfaces at Mineral Resources Park have come under scrutiny. The club has, however, undergone regular testing of its two grounds.
"That is tested weekly in terms of its hardness, and we make sure that it fits within the preferred range every week on both ovals," Bell said.
"We get sent the results every week and our high performance staff, our facilities staff and a number of others through the footy department keep an eye on that. We started that process a while back."
The increased intensity and speed in West Coast's pre-season training has been noticeable, with Bell most pleased with the way the club's players used the off-season to prepare themselves in large groups.
The recent community camp in WA's south-west also highlighted to the club that its senior players were forming a tight connection with the young core that now exists.
"The program has been demanding of them, but we have a young group that is really keen to attack the work, and an experienced group that is keen to get back to being a high performing team," Bell said.
"The most important thing is getting ourselves as fit as we can so we can compete every week, and that's what we want to be able to do.
"But we acknowledge we have had a lot of work to do, and we understand it's not a click your fingers sort of thing."
The Eagles' coaching team has also been re-worked ahead of the new season, with retired champion Luke Shuey overseeing stoppages, Matthew Knights moving to forwards coach, and Luke Webster shifting to the backline. Jarrad Schofield will lead the midfield, with Kyal Horsley replacing Rob Wiley as WAFL coach.
An off-site strategy session during the players' break saw the group identify key focuses for 2024 and how the team could close the gap on the opposition, with Simpson now visiting the United States on a personal development trip before the Christmas break.
"He has gone to do some PD now in the States to do a couple of things to continue to evolve and improve," Bell said.
"He's based primarily out of New York and visiting a number of organisations and experts in different fields that are of interest to him, so we're looking forward to what he can bring back."