In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast full-forward Peter Sumich had had an indifferent season in 1992, but it all came together in a blistering display against the Bombers at the MCG.
The Eagles sent a serious message to the rest of the competition, while also seriously denting the Bombers finals hopes, recording a 75 point win.
Peter Sumich was unstoppable, booting 11.8 from 25 disposals and 13 marks as Kevin Sheedy had no answers for the rampaging left-footer. John Coleman's record 18 goal haul could have been in jeopardy if Sumich had also not sent several shots out on the full and dropped a number of marks inside scoring range.
Sumich had been yet to reach his lofty 1991 levels, when he kicked 111.89 for the season after a season interrupted by suspension and injury. After missing a large chunk of the pre-season with a knee injury, Sumich was then suspended for the Eagles first two games for striking Geelong defender Mark Neeld in the Fosters Cup. Sumich then battled ankle problems missing a further three games between Rounds 4 and 9.
Sumich had just 20 goals for the season heading into the Round 15 clash with Essendon, but managed 19 scoring shots alone, as he tallied his second-best return behind the 13 goals against Footscray the year before.
While Sumich was the star, the Eagles dominated across the park. Peter Matera was devastating on a wing opposed to Bomber Paul Hills, picking up 23 disposals and booting three goals. His usual wing partner in Chris Mainwaring started at half-forward and had 24 touches and two goals, as Malthouse moved the magnets around before the game.
Peter Wilson began at half-back as a replacement for Dean Laidley who was dropped following his 50th game the week before. Scott Watters was a late inclusion for Karl Langdon, who had battled a groin injury for the previous fortnight, and returned to the back pocket where he had been considerably outplayed a fortnight earlier.
Paul Peos was included for his first game since the Fitzroy debacle in Round 7 and played on a wing where he had been one of the Eagles best in a similar role the year before against Essendon. Glen Jakovich also returned to the line-up in place of the injured Michael Brennan who had suffered a hamstring strain the week before.
Jakovich recovered from sprained ankle ligaments and was assigned to Paul Salmon, who had booted nine goals in the Bombers 44 point win over Adelaide the week before. Essendon came into the game on the back of a four game winning streak which had lifted the Bombers to a game outside the top six.
Kevin Sheedy labelled the game a ‘mini-Grand Final’ but was later questioned over his decision to leave out Stephen Allessio. The Bombers had successfully operated a three-tall forward line with young ruckman Stephen Allessio, Peter Somerville and Salmon, which was expected to test an Eagles backline that was without Andrew Lockyer and Michael Brennan and had David Hynes and Jakovich under injury clouds during the week.
Alessio was omitted along with Willie Dick, with Kevin Sheedy choosing instead to bring in Alan Ezard and Dean Wallis, clearly mindful of the pacy Eagles midfield. Ezard was well beaten by Chris Waterman, while the Bombers also lacked the influence of Gavin Wanganeen and Greg Anderson through the middle as Sheedy lost the battle of the coaches box.
Wanganeen started in the unusual position of the back pocket, before suffering a knock that took him out of the game in the final quarter. After starting on a wing, Anderson was moved to full-back as Sheedy tried to curtail the rampaging Sumich.
The Eagles full-forward had three goals in the opening 16 minutes of the game matched against Anthony Daniher, before Anderson was given the task. With Sumich unstoppable, Todd Ridley was also tried before Daniher was given another crack towards the end of the game.
Sumich gave West Coast the fast start, before the Bombers steadied late to reduce the quarter time margin to just 12 points. However, West Coast were never seriously threatened after the first change extending their lead at every break.
Mick Malthouse praised his side, with what he considered the Eagles best performance in Melbourne this season, but was less complimentary towards Bomber hard man Dean Wallis who was involved in an unsavoury incident during the final term.
Wallis was believed to have kneed West Coast midfielder Craig Turley with Turley suffering a split scrotum. However, with no clear footage showing the incident, the Eagles opted not to pursue the matter with the AFL. Malthouse though remained displeased by the incident.
“I saw what happened. I don’t worry about those things. That’s it, he’s injured. But he’ll be right next week.”
The win kept the Eagles in fifth spot, with an incredible run of results changing the shape of the top six. The Cats and Bulldogs played out a top of the table clash, with Geelong eventually coming out 9 point winners. That win kept Geelong on top, while the Saints were able to join the Bulldogs on wins, but only after they got over the top of lowly North Melbourne.
St.Kilda trailed at three quarter time, but a string of fortunate umpiring decisions allowed them to scrape past to the tune of 8 points. The Magpies had the bye and remained fourth, but there was plenty of action beneath West Coast, as the fight for spots in the top six intensified.
While the Bombers had their mid-season charge halted, the Hawks were able to climb past Carlton and Fitzroy into sixth position after a last gasp win over Brisbane. The Bears weren’t expected to be much of a challenge for Hawthorn but in a see-sawing match, led by 21 points midway through the final quarter. Hawthorn then booted the final four goals to steal the four points, with Tony Hall kicking the winner for Hawthorn with just 30 seconds remaining.
Carlton tumbled out of the top six after losing third match in four weeks. Jon Dorotich missed a simple chance on goal after the siren against Richmond, giving the Tigers victory by three points. Fitzroy then missed an opportunity when they fell to Melbourne. The Demons sat equal last with Brisbane, ahead by only percentage, but the Demons overturned a three-quarter time deficit to record a 22 point victory.
Match Details Saturday 27 June 1992
West Coast 4.4 12.5 16.11 20.17 (137)
Essendon 2.4 4.6 7.6 9.8 (62)
Melbourne Cricket Ground Attendance: 32,849
Best: WCE P Sumich, P Matera, C Mainwaring, C Waterman, G Jakovich, C Turley, D Lamb
ESS M Harvey, G Anderson, G O’Donnell, M Thompson
Goals: WCE P Sumich 11, P Matera 3, C Mainwaring 2, D Kemp, A McIntosh, C Lewis, D Hynes.
ESS D Kickett 2, G O’Donnell, C Daniher, M Werner, D Wallis, K Sporn, T Ridley, D Bewick.
Brownlow: 3. P.Sumich (WCE)
1. P.Matera (WCE)