In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast exacted some small revenge for their 1991 Grand Final loss when they got over the top of the Hawks by 14 points at Waverley.
In what could be regarded an eight-point match, the Eagles held sway to keep their place in the top six, while putting the finals hopes of the reigning premiers on edge.
West Coast and Hawthorn entered the crunch match in sixth and seventh respectively with the game running an opposite script to the previous meeting.
In the 1991 decider, the Eagles jumped out of the blocks to kick the first four goals of the match, only to be reeled in by the experienced Hawks, who coasted to a 53 point win.
This time it was Hawthorn who burst out of the blocks, albeit with the aid of a strong breeze. The Hawks booted the first four goals of the game, and had 10 scoring shots to the Eagles 1 to race to a 24 point quarter time lead.
Slowly but surely, the Eagles pegged the Hawks back and when Chris Lewis kicked a freakish goal on his opposite foot from deep in the pocket midway through the third term, West Coast had all of the momentum. The Eagles booted six goals to two after half-time to secure a vital victory in a game that resembled very little of the previous year’s Grand Final.
Both sides were missing several key players from the Grand Final line-ups. The Eagles were forced to leave out Glen Jakovich and Brett Heady who were both injured in the loss to Collingwood. Scott Watters was dropped after being outplayed by small forward Stephen Rowe the week before.
Dean Irving, Guy McKenna, Andrew Lockyer and Don Pyke were all missing, while the Hawks were also decimated. Norm Smith Medallist Paul Dear was suspended while Stephen Lawrence and Tony Hall were injured. Dermott Brereton hadn’t set foot on the field since the 1991 Grand Final due to a degenerative hip problem that required surgery. With Paul Hudson dropped for the Eagles clash, Jason Dunstall was the last remaining recognised forward for the Hawks.
Dunstall was the only shining light for Hawthorn, booting six of the Hawks eight goals. At the other end, Sumich booted five of West Coast’s 11 goals for the game, with no other forwards from either team having any influence.
The match was essentially played in the middle of the Waverley mudheap, which later drew the ire of Eagles coach Michael Malthouse. “Quite frankly, the ground is a disgrace, absolutely a disgrace. It is like a cow paddock. I feel sorry for those playing on it. It takes a bit out of you.”
“Every year, the AFL tells us that the ground is getting better. It’s not a great spectacle for one of the supposedly great arenas to be like that.”
While Malthouse couldn’t hide his disgust against the state of the ground, he also acknowledged the importance of the win for his side.
“We needed to win, otherwise we were gone. We would have been one and a half games behind (the top six). With 10 games to go, I think we would have struggled.”
The Eagles win lifted them up to fifth on the ladder, with two other key results that affected the make up of the top six. West Coast passed Carlton who lost to Fitzroy, with the Lions replacing the Hawks in 7th. The Magpies and Bulldogs played a thriller in one of the games of the year, with Collingwood out-lasting top of the table Footscray by six points. The loss meant that Footscray dropped to second on the leader, surrendering top position to Geelong who easily accounted for Sydney.
Along with the four points, there were plenty of other positives for the Eagles. Matt Clape came in for his first AFL game, booting a goal with his first kick after replacing Chris Lewis during the first term. David Hart made his first appearance for 1992, after a season ruined by injury and had a leading role through the midfield. Hart’s pace proved too much for the Hawks and Hart had the honour of kicking the sealer in the final term.
Paul Harding also returned for West Coast holding down the ruck with David Hynes moving to defence in the absence of Glen Jakovich. Hynes was dominant at centre-half back opposed to rookie Jason Taylor before a bruised hip sidelined him during the third quarter.
Chris Waterman was another of the Eagles’ winners taking care of Andrew Gowers on the wing, who had previously gotten the better of Peter Matera. Matera switched wings and proved to good for Darren Pritchard, with Chris Mainwaring proving a handful when moved to half-forward.
Despite the positive result, Malthouse was adamant that the win was irrelevant in relation to the 1991 Grand Final result. “No matter how many times we play Hawthorn, nothing is going to wrest back the thing they wear around their necks from last year. That doesn’t change. That’s finished, dead and gone.”
Match Details Saturday 20 June 1992
West Coast 1.0 5.4 8.5 11.8 (74)
Hawthorn 4.6 6.6 7.9 8.12 (60)
Waverley Park Attendance: 26,346
Best: WCE P Sumich, C Waterman, C Mainwaring, D Hynes, C Turley, D Kemp, D Hart, D Lamb
HAW J Dunstall, B Allan, J Platten, D Jarman, J Morrissey, A Condon
Goals: WCE P Sumich 5, M Clape, P Wilson, P Matera, C Lewis, D Hart, P Matera.
HAW J Dunstall 6, B Allan, A Condon.
Brownlow: 3. C.Mainwaring (WCE)
2. J.Platten (HAW)
1. A.Condon (HAW)