WA football leaders have paid tribute to Andrew Demetriou as a person you were unlikely to always agree with, but one who always let you know where you stood with him.

As Demetriou's deputy Gillon McLachlan was installed as a firm early favourite to succeed him when the AFL appointed a replacement later in the year, West Coast and Fremantle chief executive officers Trevor Nisbett and Steve Rosich and Sport and Recreation director-general Ron Alexander hailed Demetriou for his frank nature.

The acknowledgement from Nisbett came despite his club's battles at one point with Demetriou's administration over its off-field culture.

At the height of West Coast's cultural problems which led to Ben Cousins' sacking then deregistration by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute, the Eagles were hauled before the AFL Commission to explain themselves and to be warned of possible sanctions if the issues weren't addressed.

The league also appointed retired judge Bill Gillard to investigate the underlying causes of West Coast's behavioural problems.

"We haven't always agreed on issues affecting our club," Nisbett said. "But we have been able to have frank and robust conversations on those matters.

"Andrew has been an outstanding leader in sport and has been at the forefront of some of the biggest decisions in the history of the game, including the decision to expand football through the licences for Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast.

"We also fully support his position on performance-enhancing drugs in the AFL and his desire to have all clubs as competitive as possible.

"We don't necessarily agree with the equalisation methods, but understand why some clubs need assistance and why spending needs to be managed.

"There are still many challenges for the AFL and we look forward to working with Andrew and the AFL on some of those issues."

Rosich said "you always knew where you stood" with Demetriou.

"It is unquestionable that during his reign, the game has grown by every measure," he said. "As he leaves, the game is not only well placed to meet the challenges of the future, but also to take the opportunities of the future.

"As a club he gave us a lot of autonomy and we have been able to grow as part of his leadership."

Alexander said he found the outside perception of Demetriou as dictatorial was not reflected in his dealings with him.

"He put his position and you could have a decent discussion and negotiation with him," he said.

"All the dealings I had with him were robust but nothing out of the ordinary. He was bright, personable and decent."

Alexander said unlike other sports, the AFL understood the need to give new franchises a chance.

Andrew has been an outstanding leader in sport …"Trevor Nisbett

The West Australian

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