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Aussie Rules: Five AFL coaches under pressure

The 2023 AFL campaign has yet to begin but there is already talk about a handful of coaches being under pressure.

Being a top coach and being under pressure go hand-in-hand. Expectations at all clubs are high. Whether that be to win a flag, make the eight or continue to make progress and show hope for the future.

Some coaches can breathe a little easier heading into the season and look sure to see the campaign out no matter what happens on the pitch. However some really need to get off to a good start and have a good season or they could be heading for the exit door.

So let’s take a look at some of the coaches who could be facing the axe if things do not go according to plan in 2023.

Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide)

The long-serving coach managed to keep his job despite a horror 2022 season that saw the Power lose their opening five games. They did recover to climb the ladder but still missed out on the top eight which was a huge slide after they hosted two preliminary finals in the previous two seasons.

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The performances in 2020 and 2021 probably saved Hinkley on this occasion but he can ill-afford another poor start like last year.

Port have a strong list so the expectations will be there to get climbing back towards the upper reaches of the ladder. They are priced at 11/20 to make the eight. Hinkley is also into the final year of his contract which brings added pressure.

Adam Simpson (West Coast Eagles)

Simpson guided the Eagles to the Premiership in 2018 and they have certainly been through another impressive era in the club’s history under his leadership. That was until 2022 when West Coast sunk to the lower reaches of the ladder, winning just two games all season and only just avoiding the wooden spoon.

Turmoil away from the pitch which included a horror injury list you would not wish on your worst enemy contributed for sure. Simpson is under contract until the end of 2024 and appears to have the backing of the board. However a repeat of 2022 and the pressure could be on the powers that be to make a decision.

The Eagles are priced at 3/1 to suffer most losses in 2023.

Matthew Nicks (Adelaide Crows)

On the whole Nicks has done a solid job when helping the Crows to rebuild and over the last few seasons progress has been made. They have moved from 18th to 14th on the ladder in 2022, but now he will be expected to take them to another level and needs to produce.

The Crows have a good mix of experience and youth and will be expected to edge closer to finals. They are priced at 9/2 to get there.

Nicks is under contract until the end of 2024 and there is a good chance he will make it through this season, but the pressure is on to make more progress. The likes of Izak Rankine and Taylor Walker should help.

Chris Fagan (Brisbane Lions)

Fagan is another coach into the last year of his contract and it remains to be seen if he will be offered another one. It has been a successful six years at the helm for Fagan but the Lions have fallen short in their attempts to win the premiership. 

Time could be running out for him to finally get the job done. The Lions will be pushing for the top two again this year and have a list packed with quality. Winning the flag will be the aim and of course all that expectation brings pressure.

They are 7/1 to win the Grand Final. If Brisbane get off to a less than favourable start then it will be ramped up even more.

Luke Beveridge (Western Bulldogs)

Beveridge is another head coach to have won the flag, guiding the Bulldogs to glory in 2016, but now there are question marks over whether he is the man to win it again. They did make it to the Grand Final in 2021 before being hammered by Melbourne.

Then in 2022 they slipped down the ladder, just like they did in 2017. The Bulldogs have an exciting list full of quality and if they do not get off to a good start then the knives could be out for Beveridge, who is out of contract at the end of the year. 

Beveridge has never managed a top-four finish during his tenure. He could do with one now and they are priced at 11/4 to make it.

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