With West Coast celebrating their 30th year in the AFL competition, The Eagle Eye are counting down the top 30 moments, games, highs and lows in club history.
Here is 10 - 5
10. First Home Final: Qualifying Final 1991
As West Coast took all before them during the 1991 season, the AFL were presented with a conundrum. In both of the Eagles previous finals campaigns, West Coast had been required to play their ‘home’ finals in Victoria. But as West Coast surged ahead of the competition, the AFL Commission met to determine whether the Eagles would be able to host a final at Subiaco.
Despite protestation from many of the Victorian clubs – most notably Collingwood president Allan McAlister who declared his side would boycott if they had to travel interstate for a final – the Commission voted that finals would be played outside of Victoria in the first week of the finals, if an interstate side finished either 1st, 3rd or 5th.
Assisting the Commission’s vote was the addition of the Adelaide Crows for the 1991 season, meaning every state now outside Victoria had a football team, as well as the introduction of the Final Six. With an extra team in the finals, the number of finals increased to seven, giving the AFL more scope to play finals other than Melbourne, without breaching existing ground agreements.
A home final seemed set for Perth from the get go, with the Eagles taking top spot after an opening round demolition of Melbourne and holding their spot for the entire season. West Coast won their opening 12 games and lost only three games in the regular season, finishing three games clear at the top ahead of Hawthorn and Geelong.
The Hawks finished 2nd by virtue of a higher percentage, and would be the Eagles opponents in their first ever home final. The anticipation for the game hit fever pitch in Perth, with an almost full house of 44,142 in attendance.
Unfortunately for Eagle fans, the Hawks played spoilers, defeating the Eagles by 23 points. West Coast started the better of the two sides, but the experienced Hawks were too composed for an Eagles side that played with the weight of the state on their shoulders.
After leading at the first break, the Eagles trailed by 11 points at the main break, and then again by 9 points with a quarter to play. The match remained in the balance for much of the final quarter, before the Hawks kicked away late to seal victory and leave the home fans stunned.
Despite the loss, the game was a significant moment in club history, and another stepping stone in the AFL’s quest for a truly national competition.
9. First Derby v. Fremantle: Round 7, 1995
In 1995, the AFL welcomed a new team to the competition, the Fremantle Dockers becoming the second team from WA. Almost immediately, the focus of the state was on when the two local combatants would meet and would coincide with another big event for WA football.
Through 1994, Subiaco Oval had been under construction, with the development of a new stand on the Southern wing. Both West Coast and Fremantle played their opening three games of the season at the WACA, with the Round 7 match the first for the year at Subiaco, with the unveiling of the new grandstand. Such was the momentousness of the occasion, even Prime Minister Paul Keating was in attendance.
In a further boon to the game, both sides entered the Round 7 match in decent form. West Coast, as the reigning premiers had won four of their opening six games, with a small loss to the Crows and then a 23 point loss to the undefeated Blues blemishing their record. Fremantle had a fair start to their first AFL season, with three wins and entered the match against West Coast on the back of a thumping 58 point win against the Swans.
However, the Eagles weren’t keen on giving the new team any breaks. Played on 2nd Sunday of May, the game has colloquially been referred to as the Mothers Day Massacre. The more experienced and harder bodies of the Eagles were brutal to the younger Dockers, extending their lead at every change to run out comfortable 85 point winners.
Although there were no best on ground medals in the early incarnations of the Derbies, Brett Heady was clearly the standout, booting five goals from 19 disposals and 12 marks. Tony Evans and Jason Ball each kicked three, while Don Pyke was the highest ball-winner on the ground with 28. Dean Kemp and Drew Banfield were the next best for West Coast with 22 disposals apiece.
That first encounter would be the start of a fierce rivalry between the two WA sides. West Coast asserted an early dominance winning the first nine derbies, before the Dockers finally cracked through for a maiden win in 1999. More recently, the Dockers have had the edge, and have been closing the overall gap, with the ledger currently sitting at 24-20.
Over the years, the Derbies have provided some of the great games. The most famous – or infamous – is the Demolition Derby of 2000, which broke out into a number of spotfires in a heated first half. Dale Kickett would later receive a nine-week suspension for his work, Phil Read copped three, and a number of players were fined. A Clive Waterhouse-inspired comeback saw the Dockers win by a solitary point after trailing by seven goals during the third quarter.
Earlier that year, the Eagles had thrashed Fremantle by a still record margin of 117 points, with Scott Cummings booting 10 goals. The Eagles had their own dramatic one-point win in 2011 when Hayden Ballantine’s shot after the siren faded into the post.
In 2003, one of the most anticipated derbies saw the two sides clash in Round 22 with finals on the line. Fremantle got up by 14 points to claim a home final, relegating the Eagles to seventh. Despite the loss, Daniel Kerr provided one of the individual highlights in Derby history with his running goal-of-the-year. In 2015, the Eagles and Dockers met as the top two teams in the competition, with West Coast breaking a six-game losing streak against Fremantle to take the points.
The Derby remains the key fixture in Western Australian football, and the games against Fremantle will surely continue to provide many great moments in the Eagle’s fiercest AFL rivalry.
8. Ben Cousins Sacking
One of the most symbolic individuals in club history is former captain Ben Cousins. On the field, Cousins remains one of the greatest of the club, becoming the captain of the club in 2001, winning four club champion awards, as well as the Rising Star award in 1996 and the Brownlow in 2005.
But off the field, Cousins would prove to be one of the most tragic. Following a string of incidents through 2004 and 2005, the Eagles finally lost patience with their wayward captain at the start of 2006. After a well publicised escape from a waiting booze bus, West Coast dumped Cousins as captain, replacing him with Chris Judd.
Throughout 2006, Cousins’ off-field activities remained in the local media spotlight. In December, Cousins was found passed out outside the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, and then on the eve of the 2007 season, it was revealed that Cousins was battling an illicit drugs addiction. Cousins would be sent to a local rehabilitation centre, but after going on a weekend-long alcoholic bender, West Coast had no option but to stand down the troubled star.
A week later, on the same day that West Coast opened their premiership defence against the Swans, Cousins flew to the United States to check into a rehabilitation centre. Cousins would return later in the year, and once a number of further stipulations were met, he returned to the club.
With his battle now public, the media scrutiny became intense, and it only increased further as Cousins got closer to an on-field return. A return against the Lions in Round 14 was ultimately delayed by a slight hamstring strain, before Cousins’ comeback was officially completed against Sydney a fortnight later.
Cousins started his first game of the year on the bench, but was soon introduced to a rapturous crowd. Cousins then went about as if he hadn’t been away all year, racking up 38 possessions, five clearances and five tackles. Cousins would miss just one game in the run to the finals, but his year was ended during the Qualifying Final against Port Adelaide.
A torn hamstring would bring the rollercoaster season to an end, and it would turn out to be the last time Cousins would wear West Coast colours. On October 16 of that year, Cousins was pulled over by police and charged with possession of a prohibited drug. Two days later, Cousins was sacked by West Coast.
Although the charges were later dropped by police, the Eagles refuse to reverse their decision citing the importance of Cousins focus being his health. The following month, the AFL officially deregister Cousins preventing him from being on any AFL list for 12 months.
While Cousins would eventually return to the field courtesy of a last minute lifeline from the Tigers, his career would be forever stained by his off-field dramas, and the player that could have been celebrated as one of the greatest Eagles of all time, had his West Coast career meet a premature and ungracious end.
7. West Coast Club Culture - Gillard Report
The biggest off-field issue in club history centred around the club culture investigation following the 2007 season. The year had exposed a number incidents, with the club put on notice by the AFL following Ben Cousins’ suspension early in the year.
Former player Chris Mainwaring had overdosed shortly after the season, while it had also been revealed that Chad Fletcher had been declared dead for several minutes during the players 2006 end of season trip in Las Vegas.
The AFL Commission launched an official inquiry, with Justice Gillard brought in to report on his findings.
A number of players who were deemed to negatively impact the Eagles off-field behaviour were let go, both in the years preceding the public scrutiny and post the AFL Commission’s report. While the club sought to improve both the standards within the club and the external perception of West Coast, on-field performance suffered.
The Eagles went from premiers in 2006 to 2nd last just two seasons later, and then the clubs first and only wooden spoon in 2010. In the three year span from 2008 to 2010, the Eagles managed just 13 wins, as well as dealing with a high turnover of players, many of whom were instrumental in the successful years leading up to the 2006 flag.
An internal investigation by West Coast, separate from the Gillard report requested by the AFL Commission, found 37 incidents of unsatisfactory behaviour involving 13 players at the club.
The Gillard report would call for no action to be taken against West Coast, but a number of key indicators were set against the club by the AFL. Justice Gillard found that there was no breach by the Eagles that brought the game into disrepute.
The focus against West Coast by many outside the organisation – from the AFL Commission, to the media, to the fans – was as intense as it would ever be, and the club invested a lot of time, effort and finance into restoring the faith in West Coast’s off-field behaviours.
6. Indian Pacific Ltd
A time that was make or break in the history of West Coast was the delisting of the public company Indian Pacific Ltd.
Indian Pacific were the original operators of the Eagles and was formed by a conglomerate of partners when the Western Australian Football Commission (WAFC) were granted a licence by the AFL. One of the requirements of the licence was that the fee of $4 million be paid upfront (to be immediately distributed to almost bankrupt VFL sides), and the WAFC were reluctant to dip into their already dwindling finances.
In order to raise capital for the licence fee as well as other anticipated set-up costs, Indian Pacific Limited were established. But at the end of 1989, just three years into the Eagles existence, Indian Pacific were broke, and in essence, so were West Coast.
In its short time since joining the then VFL, West Coast had failed to establish a training base, were struggling to get members and sponsors on board, had no cash flow and on the back of a poor season that netted just seven wins, the Eagles were on the verge of collapse.
Despite the vast amount initially raised by the float, the Eagles were still stung by a number of costs. West Coast were left to cover all travel and accommodation in it’s initial seasons, made cash payments to all eight WAFL sides who were financially-strapped, forked out for transfer payments in the first two seasons to VFL clubs before the system was scrapped, as well as making the agreed royalty payments to the WAFC.
West Coast also missed out on gate receipts due to the VFL system, where only monies taken through memberships were held by the home side, with the rest of the takings split between an AFL equalisation fund and the two competing sides.
Fortunately for West Coast and the national competition, the WAFC stepped in and offered to buy out those that held the diminishing shares of Indian Pacific Limited at the significantly reduced price. Initially listed at 50c at the time of the float, the holdings of Indian Pacific dropped to just 9 cents. At the end of the bid, the WAFC held nearly 75% of the shares and were able to assume control.
The remaining issue was snapped up in the following years as Indian Pacific Limited was officially dissolved. Although the intention of the float didn’t pan out the way it was expected to, the end result worked to the benefit of Western Australian football, as the almost-collapse forced a restructuring of the WAFC and allowed the Eagles (and in future the Dockers) to be managed by the WAFC.
As West Coast became a financial force through the 1990’s, much of the funds were able to be distributed back to the WAFL and the development of football in WA.
30. Nic Naitanui Winner After the Siren Rd 8 2013
29. Glen Jakovich Retires
28. West Coast End Brisbane Streak
27. 1999 Qualifying Final v. Western Bulldogs
26. Peter Matera Leaves... Then Stays
25. West Coast Held to One Goal Against Essendon
24. Round 10, 1998 Comeback v. Bulldogs
23. John Worsfold Returns
22. Chris Judd Trade to Carlton
21. Chris Mainwaring's Death
20. Round 10, 2006 Comeback v. Geelong
19. Cummings' Record Haul
18. Judd/Cousins Back-to-Back Brownlows
17. Final Round Brawl
16. Jacket Waving Tradition Is Born
15. Sumich 100
14. First Final, 1988 EF v Melbourne
13. 1987 R5: First Win in Melbourne
12. Drawn Qualifying Final v Collingwood
11. 1994 Grand Final