Elliot Yeo looks to the umpire after tackling George Wardlaw during the R13 match between West Coast and North Melbourne at Optus Stadium on June 8, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson says he is not sure what to tell star midfielder Elliot Yeo after he was penalised for holding the ball in a controversial late decision that paved the way for North Melbourne's drought-breaking win.

Yeo laid a crunching tackle on George Wardlaw that forced the ball to a spill in the Kangaroos' forward 50 in the dying minutes on Saturday, taking possession himself before he was tackled instantly by opponent Jy Simpkin as he tried to get to his feet. 

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The decision gave Simpkin a set shot from 45m, which he converted, with Simpson appearing bemused in the coaches' box at the time as the Kangaroos snatched back a three-point lead deep in the final term. 

Simpson was careful not to comment on the decision when quizzed after the nine-point loss, which came after the Eagles had reeled in a 33-point fourth-quarter deficit with a thrilling six-goal run. 

"We can't coach differently, so I don't know what to say to Elliot. Don't win the ball? I don't know," Simpson said after the game. 

"It's probably the wrong time to ask me. I get why we made the tweak, but it seems like it will take some time to get it right.


"Players will work it out, but we have to work it out on the fly. They are pretty smart and normally work their way around it. At the moment, it's a talking point because the game looks different on occasions."

Asked specifically about the Yeo decision again, Simpson simply said: "I'm not talking about that free kick anymore, because I'll get in trouble." 

Simpson paid credit to a North Melbourne team that came to Perth with a "great mindset" and outplayed the Eagles for the majority of the game, building their lead with a run of eight unanswered goals through the middle stages at Optus Stadium. 

"North came with a pretty strong desire to perform well and it was probably stronger than ours at the start of the game. There is no excuse for that," Simpson said. 


"I don't think we won a centre clearance in the first half. There weren't many goals scored, but the contest and the scramble after that, we didn't match North.

"We tried a few different things. Liam (Ryan) and 'Petch' (Jack Petruccelle) onball worked pretty well. (Jamaine) Jones went back and gave us some spring off half-back, so we did a few things from a coaching point of view." 


North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson was proud of his group, which secured its first win since the final round of last season after a period of hard work that had not been rewarded until Saturday. 

The Kangaroos won the clearances (48-30), tackles (84-62) and contested possessions (152-137) in a fierce performance that was made possible by an excellent midfield group.  

"I thought over the course of the game the better side ended up winning the game, which was really pleasing," Clarkson said.

"It was full of heart and spirit, and a lot of the stats that we're searching for around pressure and our contested ball and our clearances were really good over the course of the day.


"We're really pleased with the manner in which we went about it today, and if we continue to play like that, we'll give ourselves a chance to be in games. 

"That's what's been lacking in our side to be competitive long enough in games, and today we were able to able to do it for longer and it gave us a chance to win the game."

Clarkson paid tribute to Simpkin, who led from the front after returning from a quad strain and kicked a 50m set shot goal at the start of the fourth quarter as well as the controversial major that resulted from his tackle on Yeo. 

"If you go to early in the game, his first three or four contests actually really set the scene for our whole side," Clarkson said. 


"Having him back in, he's missed three or four games, and when you're a side developing and you're trying to get a little bit of momentum and continuity in your side, having your skipper out of your side is a real blow.

"But I thought his return to the side today was really important for us."

The coach also highlighted ruckman Tristan Xerri's chasedown of West Coast forward Liam Ryan in the second half as a moment that lifted his team. 

"That just showed our never-give-in attitude today, which was really important for us," he said. 

"I imagine he's a pretty hard bloke to chase down and our players responded to that effort."