West Coast coach Adam Simpson says he and his players are angry about how their premiership defence ended, but he’s confident the foundations are there to strike back in 2020.

A final-round home loss to Hawthorn cost the Eagles a top-four berth, and their AFL flag hopes were ended when they lost to Geelong in a semi-final at the MCG.

The early exit from the premiership race was a bitter blow for the Eagles, who went into the finals series boasting a stronger squad than their flag-winning team from last year.

Andrew Gaff, Nic Naitanui, and Brad Sheppard all missed last year’s flag, but were up and running in this year’s finals.

The Eagles are expected to be among the main challengers to dethrone Richmond next year, and Simpson wants his team to tap into the disappointment of this season to help drive them.

“I know our players are really hungry, they’re resilient, and they’re driven,” Simpson said.

“And maybe they’re a little bit like me – a little bit angry about how the season ended.

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“We weren’t good enough this year. We were really disappointed about the result.

“But the foundation’s still there. The values are still there, and the people are still there.”

Star West Coast goalsneak Willie Rioli is expected to miss all of next season while he awaits his fate over an alleged urine substitution during an ASADA drug test.

That alleged violation carries a maximum ban of four years, and he is also in hot water after testing positive to cannabis just weeks later.

But aside from Rioli, West Coast will boast an experienced squad brimming with talent heading into next year, with veteran defender Will Schofield expected to earn a one-year contract extension.

The addition of Geelong superstar Tim Kelly would turn West Coast’s midfield into an almighty force if the Eagles can get the trade done.

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Simpson used his address at the club’s best and fairest award last weekend to pay special tribute to midfielder Chris Masten, who was delisted after 215 games and one flag.

“I’ve known him for six years. He was a little bit loose when I first arrived,” Simpson said.

“But to see him grow … see the values and morals in which he portrays himself, I’m so proud of you.

“In football, a lot of people don’t see what Masto does for us. It’s off the ball.

“It’s selfless. He’s got so much energy for our club. He loves our club. I love you for everything you’ve done for us. Thank you so much.”

AAP

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