Former Fremantle captain Peter Bell has admitted the unthinkable - that he will be supporting West Coast more than ever before in tomorrow's western derby at Patersons Stadium.
While he doesn't want the Eagles to win, he was taken by the fact his close friend and dual North Melbourne premiership teammate Adam Simpson would coach his old club's fiercest rival in a derby for the first time.
"I'll always be Fremantle in the derby, but don't worry, I'm certainly supporting West Coast more than I've ever supported them in my life because I want Adam to be successful," Bell said.
Simpson said family support had been the most crucial aspect of successfully moving to a foreign State to coach West Coast, but the support of Bell and other WA-based former North Melbourne teammates Matthew Burton, Kasey Green, Evan Hewitt and new Eagles assistant coaches Brady Rawlings and Daniel Pratt was also significant.
"It was good over the summer months to fit into the environment of WA with some locals that I knew from the past," Simpson told thewest.com.au.
"There are a few really good people I've got relationships with from my old days at North.
"When I had the opportunity to go for the (Eagles) job, I spoke to many of them for advice.
"Peter couldn't have been more positive … he's a close friend. Just information about the club and how they are perceived and, perhaps, what they needed to look at to improve."
But Simpson said he had stayed removed from this week's heightened derby anticipation.
"I must admit, I don't get overly involved in outside what's important," he said. "I'm just looking forward to the game."
Born just 15 days apart in 1976, Bell and Simpson were both in their third senior game when they became North Melbourne teammates for the first time - a round-one win over St Kilda in 1996. They played in the premiership later that year, became business partners in an IT venture soon after and shared in another Kangaroos flag in 1999 before Bell returned to Fremantle in 2001.
The former Dockers skipper said he vividly remembered his first meeting with Simpson after moving to North when Fremantle de-listed him after just two games in 1995. The timely introduction came at a daunting time when he was joining a new club featuring some of the game's greats such as Wayne Carey and Glenn Archer.
"It was intimidating - I remember training at Bulleen and Adam was one of the first guys who came up and introduced himself and we really hit it off," Bell said yesterday.
"Same age, same circumstances meant that we ended up spending a lot of time together and we related to each other's position trying to force our way into a really strong team. Adam is very loyal, and he's very much a family guy. He's very honest and you always know where you stand. He's got a really good sense of humour, but also an unbelievable competitive streak."
Bell said the pair caught up regularly, including at occasional family barbecues with their similarly-aged children, and he had offered his opinion about West Coast whenever Simpson asked.
"He picks things up very, very quickly, but certainly WA was a State he knew very little about," he said.
"I'll always be Fremantle in the derby, but … I want Adam (Simpson) to be successful." " Former Dockers captain *Peter Bell *