In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast were put through a physical going-over but came out 22 point winners over Melbourne, that saw the Eagles climb to third on the AFL ladder.
The Demons had been a shadow of their former selves as they were set to miss the finals for the first time since 1985, but despite their lowly ladder position, made West Coast work hard for the four points.
In a fiery contest between the two sides that saw the umpires pay 76 free kicks, Melbourne took a strong approach to the man rather than the ball that had several Eagles battered and bruised by games end.
Dean Kemp, Peter Sumich and Paul Harding were all feeling worse for wear after solid hits from Demon players, while Guy McKenna’s return to the Eagles line-up was shortlived, lasting just 10 minutes.
McKenna played his first competitive match since a hernia operation seven weeks earlier as a replacement for captain John Worsfold who failed to recover from a shoulder problem suffered in the previous weeks win over Essendon.
Despite having Dean Laidley available, the Eagles opted to rush McKenna back with football manager Trevor Nisbett adamant that the Eagles weren’t gambling with McKenna’s fitness.
However, Demon midfielder Andrew Obst crashed into McKenna halfway through the first quarter sending McKenna back to the sidelines. The half-back was expected to miss a further fortnight.
Karl Langdon was the other inclusion for West Coast after being a late withdrawal the week before. Langdon came in for Tony Evans who was rested with groin problems. The Eagles were still without vice-captain Michael Brennan due to a hamstring complaint, meaning deputy vice-captain Chris Mainwaring led the side.
Conversely, the Demons were without Steven Stretch and Allan Jakovich but had enjoyed a mid season improvement in form on the back of a return of a number of senior players. Captain Garry Lyon had returned the week before in the Demons surprise 22 point win over Fitzroy.
And despite registering just three wins and a draw in the opening 15 rounds, the Demons took it right up to the home side. Their physical approach ruffled the Eagles, and Melbourne took a one point lead into the main break.
The spiteful clash continued a recent heated rivalry between the Eagles and Demons.
The two sides had clashed in three elimination finals from 1988 to 1991, while the last home and away meeting ended in controversy when Chris Lewis was suspended for three weeks for biting Todd Viney. Dwayne Lamb had also had his arm broken by an indiscriminate kick from Jim Stynes making for a storied history.
The attacking nature of the Demons players left many querying the tactics used, particularly when audio of coach John Northey’s address to the players filtered through the Channel 7 telecast. Northey was heard demanding that his players continue to ‘attack the player’ and that the ‘West Coast players didn’t like it tough’.
Despite the comments and the overtly physical nature of the Demons players, Eagles coach Michael Malthouse had no issue with Melbourne’s methods.
“I don’t see it as an issue… It was a good test for the players”.
Instead Malthouse expressed disappointment in the performance and attitude of his own players.
“You always look like you are on the receiving end if you don’t go and get the ball first and I was critical of our players because I think we allowed Melbourne first use."
"I wasn’t happy with the way we played – I thought our tackling was disgraceful.”
Despite an overall lacklustre performance, the Eagles had enough class through the second half, as they booted 9.12 to 6.7. Peter Sumich booted five goals for the winners, while former Eagle Darren Bennett was Melbourne’s leading goal kicker with three.
Matt Clape shone in just his third AFL game with 21 disposals, while Glen Jakovich was the leading ball winner off half-back with 26.
Jim Stynes dominated the Eagle rucks to be one of Melbournes best with 25 hit-outs to go along with 26 disposals, while Garry Lyon had 27 and a goal roaming across half forward.
The Eagles moved up one spot inside the top six courtesy of Essendon’s upset win over St.Kilda who tumbled to fifth. The Bombers kept their finals hopes alive bouncing back from their shellacking against West Coast the week before to defeat the Saints by 28 points. Fitzroy and Carlton – both still challenging for finals – both recorded comfortable wins over Sydney and Brisbane respectively but were held out of the top six by Hawthorn who toppled the ladder-leading Cats.
On the back of Jason Dunstall kicking his 100th goal of the season, the Hawks clung onto sixth spot with a 19 point win over Geelong at Kardinia Park. Footscray were able to join the Cats on 11 wins by thrashing Adelaide by 87 points and the Magpies jumped up to third with a 63 point win over Richmond.
The Eagles sat six points off the top two but had a favourable run home, playing five of the remaining eight games in Perth. With the three away games against fellow finals contenders Geelong, St.Kilda and Footscray, the Eagles shot at a double chance was firmly theirs for the taking.
Match Details Friday 3 July 1992
West Coast 4.3 6.7 11.11 15.19 (109)
Melbourne 4.1 7.2 9.7 13.9 (87)
W.A.C.A Attendance: 23,182
Best: WCE G Jakovich, D Lamb, C Mainwaring, P Sumich, M Clape, P Wilson
MEL J Stynes, G Lyon, A Lovell, G Lovett, D Schwarz
Goals: WCE P Sumich 5, K Langdon, D Hynes 2, D Lamb, C Mainwaring, P Wilson, P Matera, P Peos, M White.
MEL D Bennett 3, S Wearne, D Schwarz, A Obst 2, R Keogh, D Cuthbertson, G Lyon, S Charles.
Brownlow: 3. C.Mainwaring (WCE)
2. G.Jakovich (WCE)
1. D.Schwarz (MEL)