Dean Cox and Don Pyke. Pictures: AFL Photos

IT was thrashed out late last year. Don Pyke and Dean Cox to take over West Coast.

Pyke as coach, Cox as his assistant, with a succession plan for Cox.

Pyke was unsure if he wanted to return to senior coaching after a hostile end to a four-year stint at Adelaide. Focus shifted to the CEO post, held for 24 years by Trevor Nisbett, and that role became Pyke's as the Eagles belatedly made decisions to halt an embarrassing demise across football operations.


Adam Simpson stayed as Eagles coach. Cox stayed where he had been since 2017, and where Pyke had been, too, for 2021-23 – as an assistant coach beneath John Longmire at Sydney.

As of Tuesday afternoon when West Coast and Simpson, after 16 matches of the 2024 season, mutually agreed they would part, the Pyke-Cox potential combo at West Coast is back in motion.


Cox will rightly need to subject himself to an extensive process to which the Eagles have committed in finding Simpson's replacement, but given his relationship with Pyke, his high-end Eagles heritage (a premiership and best-and-fairest player, and six-time All-Australian), his senior assistant-coaching involvement at a club which made a Grand Final in 2022 and is tracking beautifully for another this season, he begins as a clear front-runner.

The Eagles, rightly, treated Simpson with respect in allowing him to coach in 2024, his 11th season in charge. And Pyke was part of the lengthy deliberations which, against all odds, arrived at that outcome late in 2023.

But fast forward to the round 17 stage of the 2024 season, and there were merely false dawns attached purely to Harley Reid – initially, the recruiting of him, and then his explosive form from rounds four to 10 – for Simpson to lean on. The football rot had not been removed, and after another harrowing loss on Sunday, to Melbourne, the 52nd loss from 60 matches since the start of the 2022 season, Simpson effectively resigned in the post-match media conference in volunteering that he was "OK" with his "football mortality".

Pyke was an assistant coach to Simpson before he was appointed Adelaide coach in 2016. The two spoke at length last off-season, comparing coach-notes and football observations, and promising to be upfront with each other.

In preparation for an Eagles board meeting on Tuesday, Pyke on Monday and Tuesday spoke with Simpson. The two knew the time had come, that the 2025 part of Simpson's deal would be honoured only by the club paying the seven figures owed to him.

The highs in Simpson's 11 years in charge were huge – a Grand Final in his second year, 2015, and a premiership in his fifth, 2018. In his defence, he was subjected to a disastrous injury toll of key players. But the bulk and severity of losses since late 2021 were horrendous. And there was a woe-is-us attitude in the COVID seasons of 2020 and 2021 which infiltrated all facets of business.

Pyke was open in a pre-season interview with when he said he needed in 2024 to see the Eagles "be better, I want to see the future". Significantly, he said the change the club needed would be "measurable", and that "Eagles people" needed to be proud. 

Clearly, the future under Simpson wasn't looming any brighter, the football metrics were still disastrous and that pride had not been restored. And not even Simpson himself chose to argue that with Pyke on Monday and Tuesday.


Cox has been captured dozens of times in recent seasons being tapped on the shoulder by a sometimes-irate Longmire during Sydney Swans matches, and at some stage of the next fortnight after the Eagles formalise a program to find Simpson's replacement, Pyke too will be tapping him on the shoulder to ascertain Cox's interest in re-engaging in talks about the senior coaching position at the Eagles.

Dean Cox, John Longmire and Don Pyke at Sydney training on July 13, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Jarrad Schofield will be West Coast interim coach for the remainder of 2024.

Ash Hansen and Jaymie Graham, like Cox, are Eagles-connected assistant coaches who will be in the mix long-term. Josh Carr, a Perth-connected assistant coach, is also expected to be a person of interest.

Cox said no to the Eagles last year, but another season away has only enhanced his appeal.

X: @barrettdamian