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After the siren: Coaching's new golden ticket

Highlights: West Coast v Collingwood The Eagles and Magpies clash in the grand final

SATURDAY'S epic win by West Coast in the Grand Final marked the third straight year that a graduate of Alastair Clarkson's so-called "football university" has won the premiership.

It was Luke Beveridge with the Bulldogs in 2016, Richmond's Damien Hardwick last year and on Saturday it was Adam Simpson who masterminded the West Coast flag.

While last year Clarkson walked into Hardwick's post-Grand Final media conference armed with a Crown Lager ready to hand to one of his closest mates, the relationship between Clarkson and Simpson isn't quite as close.

And while a premium is still placed in coaching circles on those who have passed through the doors at Hawthorn, the time might be coming where working at West Coast will be seen to be equally as attractive to prospective employers.

WATCH The thrilling final two minutes

AFLCA boss Mark Brayshaw has seen enough to believe time spent working for West Coast under Simpson will be regarded as a coaching golden ticket.

"He'll stay at West Coast for a long time," he said of Simpson, who is signed through until 2022. "And I can see people going to other jobs because they worked under him."

West Coast's coaching staff is one of the more unheralded in the competition, but with a premiership to their name, expect to be hearing more about Jaymie Graham (forwards), Adrian Hickmott (stoppages) and Daniel Pratt (backline), among others.

Sam Mitchell has earned rave reviews for his work with the West Coast midfield and was praised by Simpson again on Saturday night.

It was an interesting afternoon for Mitchell, whose first thought was that Magpie stopper Levi Greenwood would go to Luke Shuey. But instead, he went to Elliott Yeo.

DARLING'S BLUNDER 10 things we learned from the Grand Final

"We have a plan for when you get tagged and 'Yeoey' wasn't probably quite across it," Mitchell said on Saturday evening of the opening term during which the Eagles were hanging on for dear life.

"'Boots' (Shuey) just realised he wasn't getting tagged, so he had to play a different role, so got himself back in the game. He won a Norm Smith Medal so that speaks for itself."

If Mitchell was in any doubts as to the career choice he made post his magnificent career, the scene in the West Coast rooms soon quashed them.

"It's strange," he said. "When you look at the look on their faces and you see how far they have come as individuals, you understand the passion people have for coaching and teaching and helping young men develop.

"It's hard not to love this."

2018 premiership coach Adam Simpson, and premiership captain Shannon Hurn. Picture: AFL Photos

Mitchell insisted it wasn't a bittersweet feeling, given he now leaves the Eagles after just two years – one as a player and another as a coach – to return to Victoria and in all likelihood, back to Hawthorn under Clarkson, although it might be to coach Box Hill, with the next stage of his coaching apprenticeship to be leading a team in his own right.

But Saturday evening wasn't the time to confirm those plans.

"I haven't thought too much ahead," he said while nursing a well-earned beer. "The West Coast Eagles Football Club has been good for me. I have loved working with some of the coaches and have learned so much.

"I really enjoyed my time. Not everything has worked out, but it's a good way to finish."

The case for the defence

Standing across the room was Daniel Pratt, who had overseen a brilliant performance from his back six.

The Eagles defence was under siege early, but while it was bent, it did not break, and one reason West Coast was able to get back into the game was that it got on top of the Collingwood forward line.

Tom Barrass was immense on Mason Cox in the first half, although the Magpie beanpole started to clunk a few in the second half. Jeremy McGovern was great all afternoon and it was his towering contested mark with less than three minutes to go that began the textbook attacking move that ended with Dom Sheed's match-winning mark and goal.

The word 'resilience' was being freely thrown around the West Coast rooms and a beaming Pratt said it certainly applied to his charges.

"We always look at how resilient you are and how tough you can be a in a contest," he said.

"My belief is they've been the best backline in the competition, especially the way they stood up in the second quarter when Collingwood had 18 inside 50s to eight.

"It was a critical time of the game. It could have been over at half-time."

Pratt wouldn't be drawn on whether McGovern would have played had it been a home and away game, although Simpson would admit shortly afterwards that had it been March to August, the big defender would have sat it out. Indeed, McGovern spent last Saturday night in hospital in a bid to fast-track the treatment of internal bleeding.

'IT BLED A BIT' McGovern reveals he almost missed GF

"I thought this bloke is a footballer, not an athlete, so he'll play," he said. "He trained yesterday and his ability to come out and play is really good."

Pratt praised the football intelligence of the West Coast backline.

"The great thing is that they're really smart footballers. I try to give them opportunities to make their own decisions and if they make a mistake I just coach them on the opportunity they miss."

Pratt played with Simpson at North Melbourne, as did Drew Petrie, who remained in Perth and has an involvement with the club after his one-season cameo as a player in 2017. Rounding out the Shinboner ties to the club is list manager Brady Rawlings, which is why one of the great scenes on Saturday was the long and warm embrace between Simpson and Denis Pagan when the dual North premiership coach presented the Jock McHale Medal to his one-time champion midfielder.

A triumph of good organisation

This was West Coast's fourth premiership and was deservedly celebrated with great gusto. The mood was euphoric and resembled any other team to have won a flag in recent years, the dressing room dotted with club identities and former players basking in the joy of it all.

It wasn't always like that at West Coast. The Eagles came together as a virtual West Australian state side when they were formed in 1987 and the off-field staff, while great at what they did, were largely drawn from the eight WAFL teams at the time.

There wasn't quite the sense of club and unity that there is today and their early premierships were celebrated in the manner befitting a large corporation recording a nice profit. What is remarkable about the Eagles today is how many key staffers have been with the club for such a considerable period.

Chief executive Trevor Nisbett is just completing his 20th season in that position, having been head of football for 10 years before that. He pointed out afterwards that his executive assistant, Anna Durante, has been with the club for even longer.

Chief operating officer Richard Godfrey has been with the club for just as long, while key staffers such as Tim Gepp, Gary Stocks and Dean Peters have also been at the club for close to 20 years.

"I think the biggest thing you can do from a management point of view is appoint good people in the right roles and have them do their jobs. It sounds like a cliché, but there's no secret to that," Nisbett said. 

"Good organisations make sure you do that, and you plan for it."

One rival club chief executive confided to this column on Saturday evening that when his own club was experiencing some tough times not too long ago and was contemplating a raft of changes, it was Nisbett who provided some wise counsel and a sense of perspective.

He was delighted for Nisbett, who is likely to step down some time in the next 12-15 months, to have experienced another flag.

Was Sheed's clutch Grand Final goal the best ever?

OK, so the season might be done, but may the arguments linger over the summer.

And the task for readers of this column is to think of a better clutch goal in a Grand Final than Sheed's shot from the boundary with two minutes to go that gave West Coast the ascendancy for good, and signed, sealed and delivered the premiership.

THE MOMENT 'Sheed's got the most impossible goal'

Three in general play that come to mind are Brisbane's Jason Akermanis in 2002, Geelong's Paul Chapman in 2009 and Sydney's Nick Malceski in 2012. Chapman put the Cats a goal ahead with his kick, while the other two mentioned were the sealers rather than the winners. And in all three cases, they were kicks in hope as much as anything.

You might have to go back to Collingwood's Ross 'Twiggy' Dunne, whose wobbly flat punt in the 1977 Grand Final tied up the game and sent it to a replay the following week.

But even then, Dunne was straight in front of goal. Such a kick should have been his bread and butter.

Given the time remaining, the incredibly tight angle and the stakes involved, Sheed's kick was truly remarkable. It should be remembered as one of the greatest Grand Final goals of all time.