The Eagles turned the 2006 premiership on its head when they thrashed the flag-favourite Crows by 82 points at Subiaco.
Adelaide arrived in Perth as the dominant team in the competition, sitting two wins and 62 percent ahead of the 2nd-placed Eagles, but were out-worked and out-run by an undermanned West Coast.
Dean Cox, Chad Fletcher, Adam Hunter, Mark Nicoski and Andrew Embley were all missing for West Coast, but the Eagles blitzed the Crows with handball, with Daniel Kerr and Ben Cousins in particular running amok.
Four Eagles – Kerr, Cousins, Michael Braun and Rowan Jones – all ended with over 20 handballs as West Coast smashed Adelaide in all facets of the contest. The Eagles finished the game with a club record 435 disposals, which included 227 handballs, as they looked to share the ball to break through the Crows full ground zone.
Adelaide’s ability to retain the ball has been paramount to their defensive setup all year, but against West Coast they were never given a chance. The Eagles dominated at the stoppages, with the star trio of Judd, Kerr and Cousins winning 25 clearances between them. West Coast also registered a whopping 99 more uncontested possessions as the Crows were left looking lethargic and unable to match the Eagles run.
Individually, Michael Braun led the way with a career-high 41 disposals, while Ben Cousins (38), Daniel Kerr (34) and youngster Sam Butler (29) were also proficient. Quinten Lynch booted four goals, and Chris Judd, Steven Armstrong and Ashley Hansen all finished with three majors as the Eagles had winners all across the ground.
For coach John Worsfold, the performance was easily summarised. “Hard work and belief from everyone involved – coaches, players, the whole club.” With a number of key players missing, the win was even more meritorious as West Coast had had only 29 fit players to choose from during the week.
The mounting injury toll meant that the Eagles were once again forced into a number of changes. Ash Hansen and Ben Cousins both returned after missing the loss to Collingwood, Ashley Sampi came in for his first game since Round 7, Steven Armstrong earned a recall following a best-on-ground performance in the WAFL, and Mitch Morton made his first senior appearance since Round 21, 2005 after being a late inclusion for Embley.
With a raft of small and medium forwards included, the Eagles forward line suddenly looked too potent and mobile for the usually stingy Crows defence. Under Neil Craig, Adelaide were yet to concede 100 points in the opening 16 rounds of the season, but the writing was on the wall when Cousins, Braun and Judd all goaled in the opening minutes of the game.
Craig tried to stem the early onslaught with both Brett Burton and Trent Hentschel sent to the backline, but as the Crows flooded reinforcements back in an effort to get their hands on the ball, the Eagles stepped up control in the midfield to repeatedly surge forward. By quarter time, West Coast had notched six goals to one, and the game was effectively over.
The pleasing thing for Worsfold and fans alike was that there would be no drop in intensity that had tarnished many other performances in 2006. The Crows managed to match West Coast in the second term, but still lost the quarter, and from then on it was a whitewash.
The Eagles produced a stellar second half to slam on nine third quarter goals before following up with another seven to completely demoralise the Crows. Adelaide had no answer anywhere on the field, and appeared listless as the Eagles produced their most ruthless effort for the year.
While the midfield were running riot, there were many other performances that proved encouraging. Ashley Sampi booted two goals from 13 possessions, but his one-touch football was a highlight, as well as five tackles in the forward half. Steven Armstrong also put his hand up for a forward pocket position with three goals from 15 possessions which included a remarkable dribbling effort whilst lying on the ground.
Down back, Jaymie Graham and Darren Glass were resolute in minimising the impact of Scott Stevens and Hentschel, and Mark Riccuito was also well held in an enthralling battle with Daniel Chick. In their earlier meeting at the start of the year, Riccuito was almost the match winner with five goals, but Chick blanketed the impact of the Crows forward, restricting him to just two.
Adelaide coach Neil Craig suggested that his side were in the middle of a heavy training block as they headed towards finals, but admitted that the Eagles now held a “psychological edge”. West Coast had won five of the past six matches between the two sides and the Crows coach said more work needed to be done. “This is a really good lesson and just goes to show how far we’ve got to go to be put in the same category as a West Coast...”
After a couple of months of sub-standard displays, the Eagles seemed to awaken from their slumber, and the 82-point demolition of the short-priced flag favourites reminded the rest of the competition that the 2006 premiership wasn’t just Adelaide’s to be won.
Match Details Saturday 29 July 2006
West Coast 6.3 10.4 19.6 26.9 (165)
Adelaide 1.0 4.6 8.6 12.11 (83)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 40,380
Best: WC Kerr, Cousins, Judd, Braun, Butler, Graham, Glass, R Jones, Seaby
ADE Thompson, Goodwin, Johncock, S Stevens
Goals: WC Lynch 4, Judd, Hansen, Armstrong 3, Sampi, Cousins, Kerr, Staker 2,
Braun, Seaby, Morton, Butler, Stenglein.
ADE Burton 3, Riccuito 2, Edwards, Goodwin, Thompson, Hentschel, McGregor, Mattner, Reilly.
Brownlow: 3. B Cousins (WC)
2. D Kerr (WC)
1. M Braun (WC)