WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson has sought to clarify comments he made on radio around the recruitment of players from private schools and issued an apology after they were met with condemnation.
Simpson told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday that diminishing football department resources could lead clubs to "go safer in the draft", using the example of a player from a private school whose parents were still married.
The coach said he had used an extreme example to illustrate his point about cuts to the football department soft cap, and it was never his intent to suggest certain players would receive preferential treatment at the NAB AFL Draft.
"I sincerely apologise if I have offended anyone with the reports that have stemmed from the initial interview," Simpson said in a statement.
"It was never my intent – nor has it been the club’s position – that any players would receive preferential treatment.
"The point I was making around drafting young players in the current environment with football department resources being stretched, is that it becomes more difficult to provide the necessary support to help some kids succeed."
Taken out of context. Without the amazing support of player welfare officers, indigenous liaison officers and development coaches in football departments, half of us midland boys wouldn’t have made it! support toward drafting at risk kids should always be prioritised in the cap https://t.co/DZt8bWkk2B— Nic Naitanui (@NicNat) July 23, 2021
Simpson said the Eagles had always supported diversity and would continue to support the various pathways available for players to reach the AFL.
"We all love those great stories and celebrate the people who take different journeys to make their mark on the game," he said.
"We will always select the best players and people for our club. We take great pride in having a positive influence on the players we draft, so they are better players and people whenever they leave the environment."
In the interview with 3AW, Simpson said clubs had been happy to take risks when recruiting players knowing they had the resources to provide any support needed by new draftees.
But under the cuts to the football department soft cap, he said the Eagles were a coach and a medico short on where they would like to be, and the lack of resources could affect who the club drafted.
"We just don’t have that anymore and you’re more inclined to go safer in the draft and you’ll draft the same type of player," he said.
"You know, mum and dad are still married, the kids go to the private school. They’re not too much of a hassle off-field.
"And you get the same type of player. Whereas I think we all want to see the risk-takers don’t we. And the more resourcing we can have the more risk-takers we can take.
"That’s probably the main thing. It will affect the product in the long run."
Cuts to the football department soft cap have been a hot topic among clubs all season, and again in recent weeks as the AFL considers an increase to the $6.2 million figure.
The football department cap sat at $9.7 million before COVID-19 forced it to be slashed.
Simpson said the increased workload of club staff had "probably just tipped over to the point where they question whether they want to do the job".
"We also understand we're very fortunate to be in this industry and I don't think we're putting ourselves above anyone else in the community," he said.
"We're not crying poor, it's just reality and we're all doing it tough. We understand that."