West Coast players after their loss to Sydney in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WITH just five victories from its past 53 AFL games and a winless start to a new season, concerns about West Coast's on-field performances are not going away.

The Eagles put in a vastly improved performance against Sydney in Gather Round, but remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder again after finishing last in 2023 and 17th the year before.

After fellow strugglers North Melbourne received a draft assistance package from the AFL at the end of last season and also the year before, and Gold Coast was given some help at the end of 2019, the proposition of the Eagles receiving a priority pick from the AFL has again been raised.

But should the Eagles be given some help, or should they instead fight their way back to the top without assistance?

Damian Barrett, AFL.com.au's chief football correspondent, is firmly of the belief that draft assistance should not be given while Nathan Schmook, AFL.com.au's Perth-based reporter who covers the Eagles weekly, believes the AFL is "duty bound" to help.

The pair put forward their cases on the Tuesday episode of AFL Daily. Listen to the full episode above and read what they had to say below.

DAMIAN BARRETT: "No, no, no, no, no - that's my view every time this topic of a priority pick comes up for any club that is down the bottom of the ladder. I said the same word in the North Melbourne situation, and they managed to get one last year. I said it prior to that when Gold Coast - again, down the bottom for mediocrity reasons and a lot of their own doing ... and they got it too. And obviously (Matt) Rowell and (Noah) Anderson were part of what they were able to do to help potentially set them up.

"I get why people argue for it ... but this club won a Grand Final - won a Grand Final - in 2018. And now we're going to have our cap in hand and ask the AFL for a priority pick?

"There's been finals appearances beyond that 2018 year, there's been the recruitment of a player the club chose to use three first-round draft picks on - I know they got a little bit back - but there were three first-round draft picks attached to the Tim Kelly transaction. And they've also either made or failed to make other decisions that would have improved their list composition.


"So it's a no for me. I'm tired of clubs just getting to this point, giving up and getting a priority pick to get themselves out of it.

"We've got this coming up with the Tasmanian entry into the competition in 2028 ... so you know that the 2026 and 2027 drafts are going to be affected by that in some significant way. And the 2028 draft as well with the entry of that football club. So I don't want another draft impacted with another priority pick changing hands and affecting every other club's standing within a draft."

NATHAN SCHMOOK: "I agree with you that the priority pick system shouldn't exist. But the fact that it does, and the fact that North Melbourne received priority picks when West Coast are at a lower ebb than North Melbourne were in my opinion, I think they have to be given one. I'm not convinced right now that West Coast are going to go cap in hand and ask for a priority pick. But if they do, I think the AFL is duty bound to give it to them.

"Whatever form that takes; whether it's a start of first-round pick, an end of first-round pick or it's a handful of later picks in the second round that they can use in some way similar to the North Melbourne situation when they could trade them away. I think they need it. I think the list is in a position where it does need it.

"I don't think that we can just say because the system shouldn't exist that West Coast shouldn't get one. Because North Melbourne got them and it's just set West Coast further behind a club like North Melbourne, who they should be in a similar position to as far as rebuilding.

"The other side of this (argument) is the fact that West Coast have got a lot of money. (But) they can't buy draft picks with the money they've got in the bank. They can't buy better coaches because of the soft cap. They can't do anything with that money that's going to impact them as a football club on field."

Adam Simpson during West Coast's match against Carlton in R7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BARRETT: "Well, they can, they just get taxed. There's nothing stopping them spending more money on the soft cap ... and if money is endless, and we've always been led to believe that it is at West Coast, well maybe they just need to hit that mark, get over the threshold and just be taxed at a higher rate. I get that that's dead money, but this club is broken. I know Don Pyke has gone into it to have a look at it, but I'd be staggered if he was fully across how bad it is.

"I know what I'm saying is probably half-justifying your stance on this, that they need a priority pick, but it's very broken. And they've got themselves in this situation through lethargy, I feel, and I think a hubris and an arrogance in that, 'We are West Coast, we will improve'. That's what they were selling and pitching to players to come their way relatively recently; maybe not in the last 24 or 12 months, but maybe three years ago. 'We are West Coast, we will get ourselves right'. And history said they did. They always went down, but they always came up hard very soon.

"This is a different story and I think it's a bit of their own attitude that's got them and kept them down."

SCHMOOK: "You've helped justify my argument, so I'll do the same for you. After the 2018 premiership and that trade to get Tim Kelly in to have that last crack at another flag and the impact that that's had on the list going forward - I don't blame them for that. A lot of people do, but I think if that's my football club and they view themselves in the window, if they can get one more piece, I'd be glad that West Coast did it. They had another crack at a premiership because we've seen with some clubs how hard they can be to come across. The Fremantle Dockers, in their own state, are in their 30th season and don't have a premiership yet. So for West Coast to go after it and to take a risk, I do applaud that.

"But to build on your argument, perhaps that's something that needs to be punished. Because if you take that risk and we're six years down the track from that premiership and it hasn't worked out for you from a rebuilding sense, then you maybe do have to pay the price.

"But it's going to be an interesting argument. I'm sure we'll have the debate a few more times through the season."