West Coast coach Adam Simpson hopes his team’s breakthrough five-point win over North Melbourne will help reduce the spotlight on the AFL club.
The Eagles appeared to have Sunday’s game in the bag after opening up a 32-point lead early in the final quarter in front of 38,321 fans at Optus Stadium.
North Melbourne stormed back into the contest by kicking the next four goals to close to within six points.
Kangaroos forward Paul Curtis had the chance to level the scores with 80 seconds remaining, but his 45-metre set shot drifted right.
Elliot Yeo won an important loose ball in defence with less than 15 seconds left to ice the 10.12 (72) to 10.7 (67) win, ending West Coast’s club-record 16-match losing run while extending North’s to 17.
West Coast’s first win since round two eases the pressure on coach Adam Simpson, whose position had been put in the spotlight following the Eagles’ long barren run.
It also means the wooden spoon battle will go down to the wire.
North Melbourne (2-17) sit 17 per cent ahead of West Coast (2-17), meaning the Eagles must win at least one more game in order to have a chance of leapfrogging their rivals.
Simpson is contracted until 2025, but there was talk his position would be in doubt if his team suffered a heavy defeat to North Melbourne.
“Maybe there won’t be cameras parked in front of the club,” Simpson said after the win.
“Maybe that just settles a little bit and takes, not the pressure, but the attention off a bit and lets us continue to do our work.
“But it really hasn’t changed internally. It’s been the same process, and it’s a long-term one.
“I know it’s been a heavy two-and-a-half years, but it won’t change what I do really. But it’s pleasing to have a win, I’m not going to lie.”
Oscar Allen (two goals), Jamie Cripps (two goals, 11 tackles), and Jack Darling (one goal, 18 possessions, three contested marks) were important up forward for West Coast, while Tim Kelly (26 possessions, seven clearances) was prolific in the middle.
Curtis kicked four second-quarter goals to lift North Melbourne back into the match, while Larkey was well held by Shannon Hurn until kicking two goals in the final quarter.
Luke Davies-Uniacke (30 disposals, eight clearances, one goal) and Harry Sheezel (31 disposals) were also among North’s best.
It was the Darling show in the opening quarter as the maligned forward racked up 10 possessions and five marks across the ground, which helped West Coast build a lead that reached 31 points early in the second term.
Curtis, having hit the post with a running shot from inside the goalsquare, recovered to kick his four in that quarter as North pulled to within one point before Allen’s flying mark and goal gave West Coast a seven-point halftime buffer.
West Coast slammed through 3.6 to 0.0 in the third term to restore the margin to 31 points, and it proved just enough for them to hold on.
“I think the second and fourth quarter, you’re pretty pleased, but the first and third were really poor,” North Melbourne caretaker coach Brett Ratten said.