20. 2006 R10 Comeback v Geelong (& Carlton the next week)
In Round 10 of the 2006 season, the Eagles travelled to Kardinia Park as one of the flag favourites. West Coast had won eight of the first nine games of the season, and were looking to make amends for the 2005 Grand Final defeat.
Geelong had been predicted by many to be one of the challengers for the flag, after preliminary final and semi-final exits in the previous two seasons. But the Cats were well off the pace sitting in 12th position, with just three wins from their first nine games, heaping pressure on coach Mark Thompson.
Despite the disparity in their ladder positions, this was expected to be a tight contest, particularly with the Eagles missing captain Chris Judd, who had strained a hamstring the week before. This meant that a orange curly-headed kid in Matthew Priddis would make his debut.
It turned into one of the greatest comebacks in West Coast history. With a fierce wind favouring one end, the Cats came out blazing in the opening quarter, booting seven goals to two. Cameron Mooney set the scene for the afternoon when he bundled Adam Hunter into the concrete dugout in the opening minutes of the game.
Trailing by 31 points at the first change, the Eagles failed to maximise their opportunity with the wind, with the Cats actually out-scoring them to extend the lead to 39 at the main break. Heading into time-on of the third quarter, the game looked over, as Mooney booted his third goal and Geelong’s 13th of the game to take the lead out to 54 points.
But just as the game looked dusted, the Eagles were given some lifelines. Geelong lost their composure and control of the ball and four goals in next to no time reduced the margin, before a late settler to the Cats had the lead at 36 points with a quarter to play.
Daniel Kerr would lead the last quarter charge, as the Eagles continued to ebb away at the lead. With just four minutes to play, Kerr would put West Coast in front for the first time all day, but there was still one twist left. Nathan Ablett breathed life into the home crowd when he kicked truly from a goal square scrap, but West Coast wouldn’t be denied and Adam Hunter bobbed up for the match-winner.
The 16.5 (101) to 15.8 (98) win was the best comeback in Eagles history, with the three-quarter time deficit of 36 points a club record.
To prove that the feat was no fluke, West Coast showed their incredible running capacity when they repeated the dose the following week against Carlton. The Blues were second-last on the ladder and at Subiaco weren’t expected to give the Eagles much of a fight. But Brendon Fevola inspired his team to shock the league leaders and early in the third quarter, the visitors led by 44 points.
Once again though, the Eagle midfielders were too strong for their opponents and it was an inspired final quarter from former captain Ben Cousins which this time got West Coast over the line. Still trailing by 29 points at the final change, the home fans could sense the momentum swing and an eight goal to two final quarter saw West Coast get up by 10 points.
19. Cummings’ Record Haul
At the start of 2000, the Eagles were an unpredictable entity. Under new coach Ken Judge, West Coast had opened the season by smashing the reigning premiers at the MCG, before succumbing to the Swans at home, and then having to settle for a draw against the Saints.
In Round 4, they welcomed the winless Crows to the WACA, with Fraser Gehrig playing his 100th game for the club, and a scrawny defender in Darren Glass made his debut.
But it was spearhead Scott Cummings who would place his name in the Eagles record books. Cummings had joined the club at the start of 1999 in a swap from Port Adelaide for Jarrad Schofield. The burly full forward had an immediate impact at the club, finishing the year with 95 goals and taking out the club’s first Coleman Medal.
2000 started a little slower for Cummings with nine goals in the opening three rounds, but against the Crows, Cummings booted a career high and Eagles best of 14 goals. After an even start, the Eagles blitzed the Crows kicking 25 goals to 8 after quarter time, en route to a 114 point thrashing.
Despite being matched up against Crows legends Ben Hart and Nigel Smart during the evening, Cummings was unstoppable, and as he booted his 10th during the third quarter, the home fans could sense a chance for Cummings to break Peter Sumich’s 13, kicked against Footscray in 1991.
Cummings would equal Sumich’s record late in the last quarter, with a clever checkside kick after Phil Matera’s scuffed shot on goal. Moments later, Phil Matera found Cummings again, and from 35 metres out, Cummings wobbled through his 14th, and etched his name into club history.
18. Chris Judd/Ben Cousins win back-to-back Brownlows
The success of the early to mid-2000’s was built largely on the back of a dynamic midfield. Chris Judd and Ben Cousins would be recognised with the highest individual honour in the game, when they won the clubs first Brownlows in consecutive years of 2004 and 2005.
Judd stormed to his Brownlow Medal win, polling 30 votes to finish seven clear of the next best, Mark Riccuito. Judd led by just a vote from Riccuito with three rounds remaining, but finished the year in blazing fashion, nabbing eight votes out of a possible nine to be a runaway winner. In just his third season of AFL, Judd polled in 13 of 22 games, with seven best-on-grounds, and announce himself to the competition as a superstar of the game.
Cousins took out the Brownlow the following year ahead of another star of the Eagles midfield group in Daniel Kerr. Cousins polled 20 votes to finish the count one ahead of Kerr to make it an Eagles quinella. In a low-scoring and much tighter count than Judd’s win the year before, each of the top five were separated by just one vote, and remarkably Cousins didn’t poll in the final four games of the season, but still managed to hold on. Cousins had been a hot favourite going into the night and would poll in nine games for the year with four best-on-grounds.
Later Matthew Priddis would be a surprise third Brownlow medal winner in 2014, finishing one vote ahead of the ineligible Nat Fyfe. In a sign of Priddis’ consistency for the year, he would poll in 13 of 22 games, but only get the maximum votes on four occasions. Priddis would become just the second player in history, behind Haydn Bunton snr to win both the Sandover and Brownlow medal.
17. Round 24 Brawl v. Footscray
As the 1994 season drew to a close there was plenty on the line for the Eagles and Bulldogs in the last round. West Coast had sat atop the ladder for much of the year, but a Round 22 loss to 2nd-placed Carlton had left their position vulnerable. A bye in Round 23 meant that the Eagles dropped from top spot below the Blues, but when Carlton had a shock loss to the lowly Bombers in Round 24, the minor premiership was once again on offer for West Coast.
Footscray travelled to Perth on the final day of the season with their own finals hopes in their hands. The Bulldogs had bounced back from a disappointing 1993 and heading into the final round, sat third behind the Blues and Eagles. Footscray couldn’t break into the top two, but were in danger of slipping down the ladder, as they sat just one win ahead of the five teams below them that made the top eight. Only North Melbourne had a better percentage than the Bulldogs,
On a warm day at Subiaco, the Eagles were warm favourites, and were on their way to a handsome victory with a five goal to two second quarter opening up a 37 point lead.
But then all hell broke loose.
On the brink of half-time, an innocuous ball heading towards the boundary line was being tracked by Brett Heady, when he was cleaned up Bulldogs defender Steve Wallace. The half-time siren sounded as Heady was being treated, but as the players converged on the area to head into the rooms, Doug Hawkins cannoned into Chris Lewis. Players came from everywhere to remonstrate, and it developed into one of the ugliest brawls seen in modern football.
Danny Southern would then provide the most unsavoury moment of the fracas when he trapped Eagles full forward Peter Sumich in a headlock, causing Sumich to convulse and pass out. Sumich would later recover in the rooms, but wouldn’t return to the field.
West Coast would go on to win the game comfortably by 71 points and snatch back the minor premiership from Carlton. However, the impact of the half-time brawl would go on to have a lasting impact.
Initially both clubs were told that no players would be charged from the incident, but the AFL Commission later overruled the decision of operations director Ian Collins and demanded players be cited. With the game played on Sunday, and then the changing of the decision during the week, five Eagles and three Bulldogs were called to face the tribunal on the Thursday before both teams were due to play their qualifying finals.
The Bulldogs went to the Supreme Court and secured an injunction against the decision delaying their hearing until into the second week of finals, after they had played Geelong. West Coast initially threatened to do the same, but ultimately decided to have the five players front up. Jason Ball, Glen Jakovich, Peter Sumich, Chris Lewis and Tony Evans all faced the tribunal, and were all cleared. The Bulldogs players in Chris Grant, Steve Macpherson and Danny Southern would all also be cleared, although Southern was fined $10,000 for his actions against Sumich.
However, the off-field sideshow seemed to affect the side’s preparation for their final against Collingwood. Despite finishing 8th, the Magpies took it up to the top side, with the Eagles squeezing over the line by 2 points. Despite the scare, the Eagles would right the ship as they cruised through the last two finals and claimed their second flag in three years.
16. A tradition is born
The Eagles and Essendon clashed in a pivotal game in Round 16 of the 1993 season. The Eagles had been second just two weeks earlier, but a one point loss to Carlton followed by a bye had seen them drop to sixth position. The Bombers sat seventh, one win behind and were desperately trying to break into the top six.
West Coast and Essendon would play a classic game, that went right to the line and provoke one of the great post-game celebrations, that would become a tradition between the two sides for years to come.
The Eagles had the better of the two sides through the first half, but a five goal to two third quarter saw Essendon head into the final term with a 13 point advantage. The Eagles would charge back with the first three goals of the final term to take the lead before Paul Salmon – who had been well held all day – kicked his only goal for the afternoon with just under two minutes remaining.
The Bombers held on for victory, with Kevin Sheedy displaying his delight with the win, by waving his jacket above his head as he exited the coaching box. His celebration became iconic between the two clubs, and the following season, Eagles fans had their own revenge when West Coast defeated Essendon at Subiaco. As Sheedy walked past the crowd, fans responded with their own jacket wave, and the tradition would last between the two sides until Sheedy’s final game as coach of the Bombers against West Coast in 2007.