BEATEN West Coast coach Adam Simpson has bemoaned his side's early season struggles after Collingwood knocked the Eagles out of the finals on Saturday night.
The heartbreaking one-point defeat at Optus Stadium, in the latest classic between the sides, delivers the 2018 premier their earliest exit in four years.
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West Coast missed out on the top four on percentage in each of the past two seasons, by five per cent last year and almost 20 per cent this time around.
Simpson didn't have to look far for blame, given the Eagles' three-match horror patch in Queensland from rounds two to four left them with a percentage south of 70.
West Coast was criticised for being outspoken about its predicament at that time, when Western Australia's COVID-19 border restrictions meant the Eagles needed to temporarily move their operation east.
They won 11 of their next 13 matches, including an 11-goal thumping of the Magpies in round eight, but still weren't able to earn a double chance.
"Yeah, it hurts, but that's on us," Simpson said.
"When you look back on our season, we lost three in a row early in the year – and we lost by plenty, so that hurt our percentage.
"We turned things around, our system improved, our individuals improved, but in the end, with a 17-game season, you can look back on every game and have moments of reflection."
The Eagles boasted the AFL's best scoring differential from centre clearances this season and outscored Collingwood by 17 points in that department on Saturday night, thanks largely to Nic Naitanui.
However, the Pies' ruthless efficiency and ability to impact the scoreboard during their periods on top was the difference, Simpson said.
One of those was in a five-minute period in the opening quarter, when Mason Cox took three contested marks and kicked three goals to inspire Collingwood to an early lead.
"It's probably been a bit of an issue for us all year," Simpson said.
"Centre bounces have been a real strength of ours, but you can't rely on just that for field position – we need to do it in other ways.
"Our inability to keep (the ball) in our front half and capitalise tonight was a concern."
Simpson said even worse than the hollow feeling of a narrow defeat was the extreme industry fallout from the global pandemic.
There are set to be further staff cuts at West Coast and every club in the postscript to the most difficult of seasons.
"Players are playing for half their salary, we had to stand down a third of our staff and it's been an emotional rollercoaster really, so it's really disappointing you don't have anything to show for it," Simpson said.
"I think this will hurt a bit more than losing by a point against the Pies at home … (and) every club will be feeling the same if they don't win the flag this year – it always feels like a bit of a waste.
"But I'm still proud of what we've done and our players. The growth we've had in some of our young players has been positive.
"We got to work through some trying times with injuries and form and we stuck fat and we're still united, so as much as I'm really disappointed with tonight, I'm still proud."
The Eagles will speak to out-of-contract veterans Shannon Hurn and Josh Kennedy about their future in the coming weeks, but Simpson said they were playing well enough to continue.