The Eagles secured the minor premiership for 2006 following a comprehensive win over Richmond at the MCG, in the final round of the home and away season.
The Eagles recorded their highest ever score against Richmond and highest score at the MCG, in a game that represented little more than a training drill. The Tigers faint finals hopes had been dashed the night before following the Bulldogs win against Essendon, and they showed little fight against an Eagles side that were missing several first-choice players.
Andrew Embley and David Wirrpanda were both casualties from the loss to Fremantle the week before, and joined Daniel Kerr and Ashley Hansen on the sidelines. Mark Nicoski was also continuing his recovery from a broken ankle suffered against Hawthorn in Round 14.
The other casualty from the Derby was Ashley Sampi, with patience finally running out for the enigmatic small forward. Just six possessions and two behinds wasn’t enough for Sampi to hold his place, following a goalless game the week before against Brisbane.
Mark Le Cras and Steven Armstrong were both brought back into the side to stake their claims to the vacant small forward position and neither player disappointed. Matt Rosa was the other inclusion, coming in for his first game since the loss to Collingwood in Round 16.
Le Cras certrainly earned his senior call-up following a dominant fortnight in the WAFL, where he had racked up 64 disposals and 15 goals. That form continued through the opening quarter against Richmond, as Le Cras tallied nine disposals, five marks and 2.2.
Le Cras would finish with five goals, and Armstrong did his no chances no harm by booting four goals. Quinten Lynch continued his late-season goal streak to finish with four, while Chris Judd and Sam Butler kicked three apiece.
The Tigers represented nothing more than witches hats, as the Eagles were completely dominant in the first term. West Coast registered 13 scoring shots to just 2, and only inaccuracy (5.8) prevented the game from being over at quarter time.
West Coast continued on their merry way with five goals to one in the 2nd term, before obliterating the opposition with an 11-goal third quarter. With one quarter remaining, the lead was 89 points and a triple figure margin looked likely, but the Tigers managed some junk goals to win the last quarter.
Unsurprisingly, many of the Eagle players cashed in on the drubbing. Chad Fletcher led all players with 32 possessions, which included 13 and a goal in the opening quarter. Ben Cousins had 30 disposals and a goal, Tyson Stenglein finished with 29 and Matt Rosa put his hand up for a finals berth with 27 disposals, 14 marks and a goal.
Drew Banfield collected his highest possession tally in over five years to finish with 26, Sam Butler had 25 to go with his three goals, while Judd had 24, 12 of which came in the third quarter, as did all three of his goals.
Quinten Lynch took 10 marks to go with 21 disposals, while at the other end Darren Glass won his battle with Richmond’s spearhead Matthew Richardson and Jaymie Graham held Jay Schulz to just two handballs. Greg Stafford was the Tigers best up forward with three goals in his farewell game. Andrew Raines was the major ball-winner for Richmond with 26 disposals, while youngster Brett Deledio had 25.
The thumping win meant that the Eagles finished 2006 with a 17-5 record and their third McLelland Trophy, one game ahead of the Crows. Adelaide arrested a three game losing streak to thrash Melbourne by 58 points and temporarily take top spot before the Eagles had played.
The loss for Melbourne was especially detrimental as they dropped out of the top four to lose the double chance. The Demons had sat third only two weeks earlier, but a draw to Geelong before the loss to Adelaide saw them tumble to seventh and an elimination final with St.Kilda in the first week of finals.
Fremantle, Collingwood, Sydney and St.Kilda all had easy final round wins to secure their spots in the top eight. Collingwood rose to 5th and were set to face the Bulldogs in the other elimination final, while the Dockers made it nine wins straight to cement third spot. Sitting 10th after Round 13, the Dockers best ever winning streak sees them travel to the inconsistent Adelaide in a qualifying final.
The Swans were the beneficiaries of Melbourne’s slide, leaping into the top four and earning the double chance. Finishing 4th, Sydney would travel to Perth to take on their 2005 Grand Final combatants in the second qualifying final. It would also be the third year in a row that Sydney and West Coast would meet in the opening week of the finals.
The Eagles had overcome a shaky period through the middle of the season to find form running into the finals and, with two guaranteed home finals, were in the perfect position to avenge their 2005 Grand Final defeat.
Match Details Saturday 2 September 2006
West Coast 5.8 10.12 21.13 26.17 (173)
Richmond 1.1 2.6 7.8 12.13 (85)
Melbourne Cricket Ground Attendance: 35,016
Best: WC Le Cras, Fletcher, Cox, Cousins, Judd, Armstrong, Lynch, Butler, Banfield, Glass
RIC Deledio, K Johnson, Raines, Polo, Tuck, Simmonds
Goals: WC Le Cras 5, Armstrong, Lynch 4, Judd, Butler 3, Hunter, Seaby, Cox, Rosa, Fletcher, Cousins, Banfield.
RIC Stafford 3, J Bowden, Richardson 2, Pettifer, Hyde, Howat, K Johnson, Tambling.
Brownlow: 3. B Cousins (WC)
2. D Cox (WC)
1. M Le Cras (WC)