WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson has leapt to the defence of two-time club champion midfielder Elliot Yeo and labelled criticism of him and the club as "irrelevant" and "unfair".

Port Adelaide great and commentator Kane Cornes blasted Yeo on the Nine Network for a "lack of impact" since his return from a calf injury in round five, questioning his weight and claiming the 1-5 Eagles' "standards have slipped".

Yeo was subbed out in the second quarter with concussion in Saturday's 84-point loss to Port Adelaide, having only gathered 15 disposals on managed minutes on his return from a pre-season calf injury in the previous week against Sydney.

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"To be honest I haven’t read anything that Kane Cornes has written or heard anything he's said, so irrelevant is what comes to my mind about what his opinion is," Simpson bristled when asked about the comments.

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When Cornes' comments were articulated to him, Simpson added: "Elliot Yeo has not played football for the last two-and-a-half years, really. He's had osteitis, he had a calf injury, he got knocked out at the start of the second quarter, he's played two games this year.

"I think that's a little bit unfair if that's the criticism on him. He's played 12-13 games in the last 40. He's working really hard. I'll back him and it's still irrelevant."

Willem Drew tackles Elliot Yeo during round six, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

More broadly, West Coast's collective fitness has been criticised but Simpson moved to explain that challenge after a season full of disruptions.

"Going into pre-season for us, we were really happy with our fitness. I think we had 17 PBs (personal bests) in our time trials and we were in really good shape," Simpson said.

"We've had 20-plus injuries since then and 23 players have had COVID and we're working really hard to get that fitness back. Absolutely, I can understand the criticism but we're working really hard to get as fit as we can and as healthy as we can."

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The Eagles will be back on the big stage when they host Richmond on Friday night, with a bumper crowd expected after the WA government further eased local restrictions, allowing for a mask-free capacity attendance at 60,000-seater Optus Stadium.

Simpson confirmed four-time All-Australian defender Jeremy McGovern would return after missing the past two games due to health and safety protocols, while mature-age draftee Greg Clark would make his AFL debut.

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The Eagles coach also revealed that two-time All-Australian winger Andrew Gaff may return from three games out with an ankle injury as the medical sub or via the WAFL.

"Gaff’s a bit different," Simpson said. "We’re going to have to explore. The beauty about this week is we’ve got WAFL on Saturday. Gaffy’s missed three out of four weeks.

"He’s not ready for a full game of AFL, so we’re considering him as the sub knowing that he can play on managed minutes, but more importantly he can play a full game of WAFL as well.

"We’re looking at it a little bit differently than trying to get that match fitness as you go. He’s an opportunity for a sub. He’ll definitely be on the emergency list, and then we’ll work through that in the next 24 hours."

The Gaff situation comes after recent criticism of West Coast's selection when they brought back Yeo, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly and Jamie Cripps at once following lay-offs.

Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff after West Coast's 2018 Grand Final win over Collingwood. Picture: AFL Photos

Simpson added: "I can understand the criticism. Of course, it looks like some players are well and truly underdone when they play, especially when you lose.

"Every case is different. Managing a player through a game on managed minutes is always a challenge, and it’s a debate every club has when an A-grader is available for a certain amount of time versus playing VFL or WAFL. It’s just when you have three or four that are doing that, that’s when it becomes a real challenge."

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Clark, who is a 24-year-old 195cm midfielder, gets his opportunity after a pre-season shoulder injury, with a spot opening up with Yeo unavailable due to concussion.

West Coast selected up Clark with pick No.62 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, having been best afield in Subiaco's WAFL Grand Final triumph last year.

Greg Clark in action during a West Coast pre-season session on February 15, 2022. Picture: westcoasteagles.com.au

"He's done it differently than all the others," Simpson said. "He showed a lot of resilience as a person and a player to go through the draft process and not get picked up.

"He played at Subiaco, became a leader. He’s done it the hard way. He popped his shoulder early in the pre-season and missed six weeks. He’s come back and played a couple of games at WAFL level and showed he’s ready. Really happy for him and can’t wait to see him play."

Simpson also said back-up ruckman Hugh Dixon was a chance to face the Tigers following a calf issue, pending how he pulls up from Thursday training.