Dean Cox leads the race to replace Adam Simpson

Justin Chadwick, Joanna Guelas and Oliver Caffrey |

Sydney Swans heir-apparent Dean Cox (r) is a strong favourite for the vacant West Coast job.
Sydney Swans heir-apparent Dean Cox (r) is a strong favourite for the vacant West Coast job.

Momentum for Dean Cox to become West Coast’s next coach continues to build, but Sydney won’t want to let their heir apparent go without a fight.

West Coast have officially begun the search to replace Adam Simpson after informing the 2018 premiership coach his services were no longer required.

Assistant coach Jarrad Schofield has been appointed interim coach, and he’ll be thrust into the hot seat for Sunday’s AFL clash with Brisbane.

Simpson had the chance to coach West Coast for one final time, but he declined the offer.

Instead, he will be honoured before Sunday’s match at Optus Stadium. 

Schofield, who guided WAFL side Subiaco to three flags and also spent time at Port Adelaide as an assistant, has seven games to prove he has what it takes to be handed the West Coast top job on a full-time basis.

But he faces a big battle to topple Cox, who is the hot early favourite to land the role.

Cox is a legend at West Coast, having played 290 games from 2001 to 2014, including the club’s 2006 premiership triumph.

The 42-year-old revolutionised the role of a ruckman with his elite running capabilities, effectively becoming an extra midfielder at ground level.

Cox has been part of Sydney’s coaching structure since 2017 and he currently oversees game strategy and performance.

Such is the high regard Cox is held in at Sydney, he’s already being touted as the successor to current Swans coach John Longmire.

But with a fairytale return to West Coast now on the cards for Cox, the Swans are in grave danger of losing their heir apparent.

Swans forward/ruck Hayden McLean spoke glowingly of Cox’s influence on the Sydney player group.

“We rate him very highly here and especially me with doing one-on-one work with him as a ruck,” McLean said.

“He’s just understanding, he’s very passionate. He builds a good relationship with every player.

“A coach that can get on a personal level but then help you on the field and stay composed is very valued.

“We would love him to stay.”

Former Eagles forward Ash Hansen, who is now an assistant at Carlton, is also set to be among the long list of contenders for the West Coast role.

“He’s a great operator,” Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps said of Hansen, who kicked 95 goals across 78 games for West Coast between 2004-2010. 

“He knows the game very well and he’s been great for our coaching group.

“I’m sure he has ambition down the track (to coach) but knowing him he’s surely focused on what we’re doing. 

“If he does decide to go ahead with it we’d  support him 100 per cent.”

Fremantle assistant Jaymie Graham, former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, Port assistant Josh Carr, Adelaide assistant Scott Burns and former Richmond interim coach Andrew McQualter are other names that could be in the running.