Adam Simpson war or words with Kane Cornes, criticism of Elliot Yeo, press conference, injuries, Covid-19 protocols

Kane Cornes has returned serve to West Coast coach Adam Simpson for hitting out at the Power great’s “unfair” and “irrelevant” criticism towards gun midfielder Elliot Yeo.

Yeo, who was brought back into the side in Round 5 against Sydney alongside Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly and Jamie Cripps after extended lay-offs, is among several Eagles who’ve come under fire in 2022 amid the club’s struggles.

Currently sitting 17th on the ladder, West Coast’s 1-5 record marks its worst start to a season a season since 2010. It’s come as the Eagles have been decimated by injuries and players entering health and safety protocols, using a total of 41 players over the six rounds.

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And Luke Foley’s omission (Covid protocols) from Friday night’s clash against Richmond will leave just Shannon Hurn and SSP signing Patrick Naish as the only Eagles to have played every game in 2022.

Cornes came down particularly hard on Yeo, who was subbed out of the Eagles’ 84-point loss to Port Adelaide with concussion last week, on Channel 9’s Footy Classified,he looked “out of stating shape” in his two games this season since returning from a calf injury and that the Eagles’ “standards have slipped.”

Yeo came off injured against Port (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

But Simpson leapt to the defense of the two-time club champion.

“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,” the 2018 premiership coach told reporters at his weekly press conference on Thursday.

“Elliot Yeo has not played football for the last two-and-a-half years, really. He’s had osteitis (pubis), 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’sa 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.”

Responding to the Eagles boss on SEN Breakfast on Friday morning, Cornes maintained his stance.

“The best coaches support their player, so no issue with Adam Simpson doing that. But my response to that would be perhaps he’s missed so much football because he hasn’t prepared himself,” Cornes said.

“Maybe you are less likely to get osteitis pubis if you’re carrying less weight and you’re putting less pressure on your body. Perhaps as you get older, you need to trim down a little bit and lose that weight. I think there would be a case to make with that.

“The second point is, just because you’ve missed footy, it doesn’t excuse you from what you eat and I’m sure he can ride a bike and have non weight bearing aerobic activity that can keep him in shape.

“I just reflect on my own experiences and the best high performance managers I played under and they were so strict on skinfolds and diet and one of them was Darren Burgess. It’s not surprising that Taylor Walker, who hadn’t played in eight months, has come back looking as fit as you’ve ever seen and he’s kicked 12 goals in three weeks.

“Are we too scared to question the way players look? Because in America, this is how they talk about their athletes. Bill Simmons hosts the most popular sports podcast in the world, Zion Williamson is the first (NBA) draft pick from a few years ago and he’s called him fat.

“I’m not saying we go down that path, but if you’re a full time professional athlete, I think we have the responsibility, and fans do as well, to call it out. And I don’t think Elliot Yeo is in shape, that was my point.”

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The Eagles will welcome back Jeremy McGovern against the Tigers after a two-game absence due to health and safety protocols, while mature-age draftee Greg Clark will make his debut for the club.

And Simpson confirmed Andrew Gaff, who was named as an emergency, could return from an ankle injury as the medical sub or through the WAFL.

“I can understand the criticism, of course. It looks like some players are well and truly underdone, especially when you lose. But Yeo played WAFL football this year, Shuey has played WAFL football, we’ve done that consistently.”

“There’s only so many games you play before you come in and hope the team can help carry them through. I’ve said this before, the AFL doesn’t wait for anyone, you really have to come in ready to go.

“Every case is different, managing a player through a game on managed minutes is always a challenge. It’s a debate every club has when an A grader is available for a certain amount of time, versus playing VFL or WAFL.

“That’s a tough discussion to have, it’s just when you have three or four who are doing that, that’s when it becomes a real challenge.”

Simpson also brushed off how surrounding the club’s overall fitness.

“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,” he 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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