West Coast players look dejected after a loss during round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

PLAYING with spirit will be the No.1 focus for West Coast this season as the team commits to a series of "baseline goals" that will help it reach the next stage of its rebuild, according to coach Adam Simpson.

Creating an identity as a team this pre-season has been a focus that Simpson has often referenced, as a young crop of players led by new captains take charge following the steady departure of the 2018 premiership group.

Simpson said the game style focuses for the Eagles would centre around the contest and applying pressure, but playing with energy after two seasons that have challenged the team's spirit would be the priority.

"We're going after a couple of things, and they're pretty basic. But it's just where we've got to start. The contest and the pressure, those basic KPIs, and the smaller rocks behind that are what you're trying to build," Simpson told AFL.com.au.

"We're looking at that and then essentially trying to get the game in our half really. The amount of time we spent defending last year, it became a challenge to get that right.

"To do that you've got to win your clearances, and you've got to be a better tackling team. Just things like that, and we want to play with spirit. We've had it before I've seen it in previous years, and that's the number one focus for us."


Simpson said being able to compete at the contest was "more important than ever" as he looks to lay the foundations of the young team's game style to build its "core resilience".

"I think we've identified through the analytics and a lot of research what we need to chase in the first stage that we're in to get to the second stage. We can't jump," the coach said.

"I don't think we're reinventing the wheel here, we're just starting with a baseline. We need to build that core resilience before you can start talking about the next level."

On the team's ball movement, Simpson said the Eagles needed to become comfortable with the chaos of modern football – both to be an effective team with the ball and to understand how opposition teams would continue to play. Training this summer has clearly reflected the shift.

After experiencing success as a coach with a controlled style of play, Simpson said continuing to evolve was something he was excited by.

"The best teams embrace that chaos, and we've got to get better at that," the coach said. "We've had control over the years, but the game is built more on turnover, turnover, can you handle the scramble, and can you stick to what you're doing while that's going on?

"We can't shy away from that … the game moved in a different direction and we probably bucked the trend really. We needed to change the way we go about it. It just takes a bit of time.

"We had two really poor years, and whilst we will own that, we still need to keep looking forward, and we'll gain a bit more direction as we go.

"When I got here I had a plan, and the players took that and made it their own. I think that's what will happen again this time around. It'll just be a baseline of pressure and contest and front half footy."