Why West Coast Should Receive A Priority Pick… And Why They Shouldn’t


The West Coast Eagles are in the midst of their darkest days.

A former powerhouse, perennial finals contender, and the well-known bigger brother of the West has found itself on its knees, being dealt belting after belting as they’ve bewilderingly become the easy-beats of the league.

It’s a staggering turn of events fashioned through a series of own-goals from list management, coaching and administration figureheads that have led to the on-field demise of a once consistent AFL threat.

Honestly, it’s like watching House Lannister bumbling their way from one idiocy to the next in Game of Thrones, blissfully denying their own inevitable destruction as it creeps up on them. Seriously, the parallels are all there.

Former CEO Trevor Nisbett plays Lord Tywin (an all-powerful tyrant eventually shot in the belly while on the crapper by his own coach and board), coach Adam Simpson is a fitting Jaime (the public figurehead of the hapless organisation who invokes empathy from neutral onlookers) and poor Harley Reid gets to play the boy king Tommen (unwillingly thrown into a horrific situation and potentially prepared to see his own way out).

But enough with the Westerosi references. As I’ve already lost three quarters of the audience, I should probably get to the point.

While the prideful Eagles are yet to officially put their hand out for a North Melbourne-esque compensation package, rumours and chatter of a potential priority pick are bubbling away like rotten eggs on the boil.

The commentary crew discussed the possibility of a priority pick openly in the Eagles’ Round Three clash with the Bulldogs, and many seasoned media pundits have divided opinions on the matter.

The likes of Kane Cornes and Matthew Lloyd believe an assistance package is necessary to return the Eagles to some form of competitiveness and restore competition integrity, but others such as Caroline Wilson have guffawed at the idea of providing a handout to the competition’s wealthiest and most powerful identity.

So which way should this go? Do the Eagles deserve a helping hand as they stare into the abyss, or should they be made to suffer fully for the mistakes they’ve made?

Let’s break down both the arguments for, and against, giving West Coast a priority pick below.


Why the West Coast Eagles SHOULD receive a priority pick

  1. Competition integrity

The natural imbalance of a 23-game fixture in an 18-team league leaves the AFL exposed to massive gaps in equality and fairness among the competition.

To reach their desired amount of games, each club gets to face six of their opponents twice. This means, inevitably, a handful of clubs will be lucky enough to play the Eagles twice, netting themselves two huge percentage boosts.

Last year four of the six clubs who faced West Coast twice took full advantage of the situation. Fremantle beat them by 41 and 101 points, Richmond by 46 and 38 points, Adelaide by 122 and 45 points and Carlton by 108 and 71 points.

This is an instant advantage for these sides (particularly Freo who will face West Coast twice every season), and it’s fair for this to be pointed out.


  1. AFL precedent

Over the years the AFL has handed out several priority picks and assistance packages, most recently awarding North Melbourne a handful of 2023 and 2024 end-of-first-round draft choices.

The Gold Coast Suns were able to snag Noah Anderson (in addition to Matt Rowell) in the 2019 draft via AFL assistance, and the Melbourne Football Club received a handout when they were in a similar situation to the current Eagles side way back in 2009.

So if these clubs all qualify for assistance, why not West Coast? These Eagles are arguably the worst of all the aforementioned teams, with those putrid Demons outfits maybe the exception (everyone remembers that dark day in Geelong).

Yes, the Eagles are in a much better off-field position than each of these teams were, but should this dictate an on-field assistance package? Perhaps… perhaps not.


  1. Watchability

Have you actually sat down and watched the West Coast Eagles lately? I wouldn’t blame you if the answer is no.

They’re a bloody tough watch, unless of course you barrack for their opposition.

In all seriousness though, the constant drubbings the Eagles find themselves on the receiving end of are just no good for the broadcast.

I know several Eagles fans who have said they simply don’t watch their team’s games right now, and while I understand to loyal diehards that will sound like a slap in the face, I genuinely don’t hold that against them in the slightest.

What is there to watch? Their young kids are hardly developing, most senior players flounder around from one blunder to the next and the margins get bigger every week.

If the AFL wants people to tune in to watch one of its biggest, most powerful clubs, then the Eagles simply must get better one way or another.


Why the West Coast Eagles SHOULD NOT receive a priority pick

  1. Have they really suffered long enough?

It sounds like a sadistic question from some domineering weirdo, but genuinely, have the Eagles spent long enough in the doldrums to all of a sudden be receiving bailouts?

It might seem like a lifetime ago now, but West Coast won a flag (that’s right, an actual AFL premiership) just five and a half years ago.

I’m a Freo fan, and on that day I watched on with envy as my smug West Coast-supporting mate bellowed at the top of his lungs declaring undying love for Luke Shuey.

I haven’t forgotten, and neither has the rest of the AFL.

Yes, they are struggling mightily right now, but if this club is keen on flaunting its sustained success in our faces (and take it from me, they are) then they shouldn’t be putting their hand out for concessions at the same time.


  1. Off-field stability

Priority picks are usually reserved for clubs who are both experiencing on-field demolition AND off-field crisis. Only one of these is true of the West Coast Eagles.

For years this club has loved to flaunt their abundant wealth, swelling membership base and past success, and rightfully so (I mean if you got it, flaunt it, right?).

But that’s why their current situation is so unique, and specifically differs so much from their North Melbourne counterparts.

North was a club on the brink. An organisation bereft of leadership, with a tiny membership base and not a great deal flowing through the coffers.

West Coast is none of that and with astute list management and better decisions made from the top down, could feasibly see themselves return to a position of strength in the coming years without any assistance.

The Eagles have been humbled, but by no means crippled. Let them rise again on their own two feet.


  1. They’ve made their bed, let them lie in it

I’ve heard this line thrown about by the media over the past couple days when discussing West Coast, and admittedly, I don’t agree with it. The same could be said of North Melbourne and Gold Coast, who both still received compensation.

However, for the sake of the argument, let’s entertain it.

This hell the Eagles find themselves lost in is of their own making, that’s true.

They have doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on their list strategy of backing in old veterans in the hopes of rekindling long lost flames ever since they took the 2018 flag.

They extended the likes of Jeremy McGovern (who to be fair, is still outstanding), Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling.

The Tim Kelly trade remains an undisputed disaster despite him winning their best and fairest last season, and outside of a few high-end picks their draft choices have been less than inspiring.

All of this has amounted to their current position, and perhaps the AFL should simply let the draft process run its course before interfering and inevitably causing more headaches for themselves?


So to sum up…

I’m genuinely torn. I probably lean more towards not giving the Eagles a priority pick on principle, but in all honesty, it does seem like it would be in the best interest of the competition to even the playing field here.

All in all, while we will continue to use West Coast games as the perfect time slot to mow the lawn, I will certainly be watching the AFL’s movements in the draft space with bated breath.