Chris Fagan and the Brisbane Lions this week will venture where no club wants to go … to the home of an opposition club that has just sacked their coach.

Just as a mid-season coaching change prompts massive media interest and public debate, it raises a big red flag for the club that unwittingly is thrust into the equation.

That’s Brisbane lot this week ahead of a Sunday assignment at Optus Stadium against a West Coast side that on Tuesday moved on Adam Simpson after 11 years, 242 games, 12 finals, two grand finals and a premiership at the helm.

The Lions were spared the extra emotion of a farewell game for the popular ex-North Melbourne captain turned Eagles boss when Simpson declined the West Coast offer to coach one more time.

But still the emotions will be high as caretaker coach Jarrad Schofield begins his audition for the job full-time and West Coast players look to shore up their own standing within the club.

History tells us since Brisbane and West Coast joined the now national competition in 1987 a coach has been replaced for football reasons mid-season 42 times.

This includes coaches who were sacked on the spot, who left mid-season when told their contract would not be renewed, simply walked away from the game, or, in James Hird’s first exit from Essendon, when he was suspended due to the club’s supplements scandal.

The caretaker coach handed the job mid-season has won his first game in charge 19 times, drawn once and lost 21 times.

But the statistic that will have Brisbane alarm bells ringing is that which says teams travelling interstate to play against a side first up after a mid-season change of coach have a 30% win record – three wins and a draw from 11 games.

Less relevant than it normally would be is a form line which shows the Lions with five wins on the trot and six from their last seven to climb to 7th on the ladder at 9-1-6, and West Coast having lost six in a row and nine of their last 10 to be 16th at 3-13.

Because it’s a new chapter in a West Coast history that in 38 years and 879 games sees only six coaches and two caretaker coaches required for one game each when Simpson missed due to a family health emergency and Covid.

Schofield, a 206-game player with West Coast (1993-98), Port Adelaide (1999-2004) and Fremantle (2005-06), is known to Brisbane fans – he was a member of the Port side that beat the Lions in the 2004 grand final.

He coached Subiaco in the WAFL from 2013-18 for five grand finals and flags in 2015 and 2018, when they went undefeated. He was an assistant-coach at Port Adelaide from 2019-21 and has been a member of Simpson’s coaching staff since 2022.

Simpson’s exit means only Geelong have not had a change of coach mid-season since 1987. Carlton, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs have had the sharpest ‘axe’, moving on coaches four times, while Brisbane have done so three times.

Inaugural Bears coach Peter Knights was replaced by Paul Feltham in 1989, John Northey by Roger Merrett in 1998, and in 2013 Mark Harvey coached the last three games after Michael Voss was terminated.

In the era of the expanded competition Fitzroy twice had a mid-season change of coach when Bernie Quinlan (1995) and Mick Nunan (1996) were replaced by Alan McConnell.

Brisbane have twice inflicted losses that saw opposition coaches sacked the following week. In 1989 Warwick Capper kicked a late goal to beat Carlton at Princes Park, bring Robert Walls’ time at the Blues to an end, and in 2007 Jonathan Brown kicked a club record 10 goals in a 117-point Gabba slaughter that saw North Melbourne sack Denis Pagan.

The Lions have twice previously faced a club under a caretaker coach following a mid-season sacking – in 2017 then beat Gold Coast by 58 points at the Gabba after Dean Solomon took over from Rodney Eade, and in 2019 they lost by 15 points to Carlton under David Teague at Marvel Stadium after Brendan Bolton was sacked.

In other quirky twists connected to mid-season coaching changes since 1987:-

  • Of 41 caretaker coaches prior to Schofield, 14 went on to win the job full-time, but since 2010 only three of 19 have done so.
  • Four coaches who took over mid-season on a caretaker basis were later replaced by a caretaker coach mid-season – Alan Joyce and Terry Wallace (Western Bulldogs), Matthew Primus (Port Adelaide) and Neil Craig (Adelaide). Craig was also caretaker coach at Melbourne.
  • Rodney Eade, Brisbane’s 1991 VFL reserves premiership coach, was replaced mid-season three times – at Sydney (2002), Bulldogs (2011) and Gold Coast (2017).
  • Brett Ratten, who coached Carlton in 120 games from 2007-2012 and St.Kilda in 68 games from 2019-22, started both jobs as a caretaker coach. He replaced Pagan at North in 2007 and Alan Richardson at StKilda in 2019, and later deputised for Alastair Clarkson at North Melbourne for 10 games in 2023 when Clarkson took personal leave due to Hawthorn’s ongoing racial discrimination saga.
  • Mark Harvey also was a caretaker coach at two clubs, replacing Chris Connolly at Fremantle in 2007 and Voss at Brisbane in 2013.
  • Darren Crocker, now North Melbourne AFLW coach, has had three stints as caretaker coach at North Melbourne. He did 10 games after Dani Laidley quit mid-season in 2009 and deputised twice for Brad Scott – four games in 2015 when Scott had back surgery and one game in 2016 when Scott was ill.
  • Four coaches replaced mid-season won their last game in charge – Gary Ayres at Adelaide in 2004, Hird at Essendon in 2013, Brad Scott at North in 2019 and Nathan Buckley at Collingwood in 2021.

The full list of coaches who have been replaced mid-season since 1987, with the caretaker coach who took over from them, is:-

1989 – Carlton – Robert Walls – Alex Jesaulenko *
1989 – Brisbane – Peter Knights – Paul Feltham
1993 – Sydney – Gary Buckenara – Brett Scott
1994 – W/Bulldogs – Terry Wheeler – Alan Joyce *
1995 – Fitzroy – Bernie Quinlan – Alan McConnell
1996 – W/Bulldogs – Alan Joyce – Terry Wallace *
1996 – Fitzroy – Mick Nunan – Alan McConnell
1997 – Melbourne – Neil Balme – Greg Hutchinson
1997 – Richmond – Robert Walls – Jeff Gieschen *
1998 – Brisbane – John Northey – Roger Merrett
2001 – Fremantle – Damian Drum – Ben Allan
2001 – StKilda – Malcolm Blight – Grant Thomas *
2002 – Sydney – Rodney Eade – Paul Roos *
2002 – W/Bulldogs - Terry Wallace – Peter Rhode *
2004 – Adelaide – Gary Ayres – Neil Craig *
2004 – Hawthorn – Peter Schwab – Donald McDonald
2007 – Melbourne – Neale Daniher – Mark Riley
2007 – Fremantle - Chris Connolly – Mark Harvey *
2007 – North Melb – Denis Pagan – Brett Ratten *
2009 – Richmond – Terry Wallace – Jade Rawlings
2009 – North Melb – Dani Laidley – Darren Crocker
2010 – Port Adel – Mark Williams – Matthew Primus *
2011 – Adelaide – Neil Craig – Mark Bickley
2011 – Melbourne – Dean Bailey – Todd Viney
2011 – W/Bulldogs – Rodney Eade – Paul Williams
2012 – Port Adel – Matthew Primus – Garry Hocking
2013 – Melbourne – Mark Neeld – Neil Craig
2013 – Brisbane – Michael Voss – Mark Harvey
2013 – Essendon – James Hird – Simon Goodwin
2015 – Carlton – Mick Malthouse – John Barker
2015 – Essendon – James Hird – Matthew Egan
2017 – Gold Coast – Rodney Eade – Dean Solomon
2019 – North Melb – Brad Scott – Rhyce Shaw *
2019 – Carlton – Brendan Bolton – David Teague *
2019 – StKilda – Alan Richardson – Brett Ratten *
2019 – Fremantle – Ross Lyon – David Hale
2021 – Collingwood – Nathan Buckley – Robert Harvey
2022 – GWS – Leon Cameron – Mark McVeigh
2022 – North – David Noble – Leigh Adams
2023 – Richmond – Damien Hardwick – Andrew McQualter
2023 – Gold Coast – Stuart Dew – Steven King
2024 – W/Coast – Adam Simpson – Jarrod Schofield

(*) denotes caretaker coaches who won the job full-time.

Note: Not included are caretaker coaches who deputised due to Covid or a senior coach’s ill-health, or the tragic circumstance in Adelaide in 2015 when Scott Camporeale replaced Phillip Walsh.