West Coast coach Adam Simpson says his club, and others around the league, will continue to lose staff members to other industries in the wake of the AFL’s soft cap cuts.
The AFL slashed the soft cap by 30 per cent as part of the fallout from the COVID-19 impacted 2020 and clubs have been forced to make tough decisions regarding who to keep and who to cut, while salaries have been reduced across the board.
Geelong reportedly lost a pair of doctors on the eve of the pre-season, making the decision to operate outside of football.
Simpson feels the allure of being a part of an AFL system has diminished.
“I’ve lost a couple of kilos because we lost a couple of coaches so I’m doing the ground balls on the wing with our forwards at the moment,” the West Coast coach told Sportsday.
“We had a coach in quarantine as well, I think we had four coaches for the first couple of weeks.
“It was actually good to reconnect, but our medical team has probably been hurt a little bit more than our coaching team.
“In the long run there was 180 coaches in the league now there’s 120. Readjusting to the soft cap overall and trying to keep the same product, that’s the challenge.
“There’s more and more cases of a coach or a staff member saying ‘listen I can probably earn more money and work a bit less in a different industry’.
“The carrot of AFL is probably not as strong as it used to be at the moment.
“We’re working through it and every club is and we’re trying to adjust as best we can.”
Simpson believes it’s simply “reality” that club staff, particularly medicos, will choose other pathways over AFL.
“It’s just reality. If you’re a physio that gets paid a certain amount at an AFL club, can you get a bit more if you work in your own practice, do you weigh up the workload and hubs and potential moves around and I think we’ve seen more moves in that space than ever,” he said.
“The decision is a tougher one to make. It used to be automatic ‘I’ll stick with AFL’. It’s a great industry, but you’ve got to weigh that up with paying the bills and looking after your family and the work-life balance as well.
“That’s the challenge, but that’s every club at the moment.”
With fewer coaches to go around between the playing group, Simpson said working out the balance has been the challenge over the pre-season.
“We had nine (coaches) on our books last year, now we’ve got five or six, so it’s more about what you want bang for buck,” he said.
“Do you put more in development, more in match-day, more in line coaches, I don’t think any club would have a stoppage coach anymore, or they might, but it would be at the expense of something else.
“The adjustment we’re all making is give to get and on the back of it we’re getting a lot of hybrid roles. You may be a medico, but you can do a bit of assistant coaches.
“We’re just trying to balance the books as best we can.”