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The mantra driving the Eagles to repeat 2018 success

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'TRUST the Process'. 

It's a mantra fans of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers are all too familiar with from years of painstaking rebuilding before they finally acquired the pieces – including Australian star Ben Simmons – for a title challenge.

As the reigning premiers, West Coast's current situation might seem a world away from the 76ers' former plight.

But 'Stick to the Process' is a slogan that could be easily applied to the Eagles, given coach Adam Simpson's learnings from not just 2018, but this off-season.

With a shortened preparation time for the looming flag defence, Simpson and his assistants eschewed overseas study tours in favour of spending more time with family recharging.

But it wasn't all rest and relaxation for the premiership mentor, who spent part of his summer researching reasons successful teams and athletes had stumbled after climbing to the top of the mountain in their sport.

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"I looked at teams that had success and fell away, and why that (happened)," Simpson told AFL.com.au

"If you actually look at world sport and look at some stories ... there's lots of stories about people who, not choked, but didn't fulfill the previous year's standard and I looked at why.

"The end result was pretty much stick to your process. That's what we've pushed to the players.

"Just get the process right and we'll worry about the intangibles later on."

 

One of the stories that stuck with Simpson occurred only days after the Eagles' famous Grand Final victory over Collingwood.

Defending his Bathurst crown, professional driver David Reynolds dominated last October's race before succumbing to excruciating cramp with 26 laps remaining.

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Reynolds' meltdown presented the legendary Craig Lowndes with a chance to overtake him and secure a fairytale finish to his career.

As the reigning champion, Reynolds' build-up to 'The Great Race' was hectic and the devastated driver was left sleep-deprived, battling anxiety and exhausted even before the 161-lap endurance classic began.

"His reflection was he got that wound up, he got that nervous, he tried to do everything and he forgot to drink," Simpson said.

"He cramped and it cost him the 'flag'. 

"My thought was that's a great story about process."

Just days out from the start of the 2019 season, Simpson can't tell what each of his players is thinking, but judging from their actions he hasn't seen any signs of complacency.

A swag of Eagles ran personal-best time trials in January, and many – including flag heroes Jeremy McGovern and Willie Rioli – returned to training noticeably trimmer.

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Simpson admitted to some anxiety about where his squad was at before the JLT Community Series began, but they picked up where they left off with convincing wins over Geelong and Fremantle.

"I haven't seen our players deviate, but I can't tell you (what they're thinking)," he said.

"We were two-and-a-half games off finishing seventh (last year), and we kicked a goal after the siren in one game (against Port Adelaide) – I don't think we're just sitting there thinking 'we just need to turn up'.

"I think our players know that, I think they're humble, but they've also got a quiet confidence about themselves. That's a really good space to be in.

"Our JLT games were OK, but Brisbane (in round one) is going to be tough and all of a sudden if you start on the back foot then you're chasing your tail.

"We won 10 in a row last year, which sets you up. 

"I can't tell you, honestly, what's going to happen this year, no one can, but we are in a good space."