Jack Darling celebrates kicking a goal during the match between the Western Bulldogs and West Coast at Marvel Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson says he never considered dropping Jack Darling this week and hopes Andrew Gaff will be banging down the selection door again soon.

Gaff has been dropped to the WAFL after gathering just four disposals before being subbed out of last week's 50-point loss to Port Adelaide.

The 31-year-old's poor form was also a major talking point last year, and his quiet first-up display raised questions about whether the game had passed him by.

Darling was also quiet against Port, kicking just one goal from four disposals.

The limited supply didn't help, and Oscar Allen's knee injury means West Coast will need all hands on deck in the forward line for Sunday's match against Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium.

Jack Darling in action during the match between Port Adelaide and West Coast at Adelaide Oval in round one, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Darling was initially named on the extended bench when the squad was revealed, but Simpson denied he was sending the veteran a message.

"He can play better than last week but (it's) not really a message," Simpson told reporters on Friday.

"He trained well yesterday, he looks up and about, so expect a good performance this week.

"We don't judge our forwards on goals, it's impact. It's pressure, how connected you are with the other forwards.

"He's a leader. We want him to lead as well as he plays.

"We're not necessarily looking for a five-goal haul, we're looking for that forward line to work together - to not only attack, but also to defend well.

"I thought last week we didn't defend that front half well enough, and he is part of the solution."


Gaff's lucrative contract ends this year, and his future beyond 2024 is in grave doubt.

Simpson said the 276-game veteran must regain touch and confidence in the WAFL.

"He's a decorated player for our club, so the respect's there. But we need performance as well," Simpson said.

"It's confidence really. We all go through these slumps where you don't have the same confidence you once had.

"So just get your hands on the ball, play midfield, play half-back, play wing, feel good about yourself, feel confident you've still got it.

"Just get a bit of touch is the starting point, get some form and then he can knock on the door and say, 'give me a game'."

Andrew Gaff handballs during West Coast's intraclub match at Mineral Resources Park on February 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Defender Alex Witherden has also been dropped, with Simpson recalling Jamaine Jones.

Forward Ryan Maric will be the sub, while 20-year-old ruckman Harry Barnett has been called up for just his second match. 

Barnett's inclusion will allow Bailey Williams to spend more time in attack, helping cover the loss of Allen.

Allen will miss at least eight weeks with bone bruising on his knee and cartilage damage, while Elijah Hewett will undergo foot surgery that will sideline him until the mid-season bye.