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 are the top five:
5. First Grand Final 1991
In just their fifth season in the AFL, the Eagles became the first non-Victorian team to qualify for the Grand Final.
West Coast were the premier team in the competition during the 1991 home and away season, finishing clear on top with 19 wins from 22 games. But the Eagles were shocked in the opening week of the finals when they lost to the Hawks at Subiaco.
The defeat meant that the Eagles would have to take the long way to the Grand Final. Despite finishing on top, West Coast travelled to take on Melbourne for the semi final. The Eagles overcame a slow start to finish victors by 38 points.
The following week, West Coast took on the Geelong in the Preliminary Final, who had narrowly fallen short of Hawthorn in their semi final in one of the games of the year. The Hawks had gained direct entry to the Grand Final as a result, leaving the Eagles and Cats to battle it out on a wet and sodden Waverley Park for the other spot.
West Coast got the all important jump at the beginning to lead by 22 points at the first change and maintained their position to take a 27 point advantage at half-time. Despite the atrocious weather, the Cats clawed back the deficit to get within a goal twice in the final quarter, only for the Eagles to steady and grind out the 15 point win.
The City of Perth was in Eagle hysteria. Crowds stormed the airport, as well as training during the week. 10,000 West Australians travelled to Melbourne to see the Eagles make history in the first and only Grand Final played at Waverley Park.
Unfortunately, the day would not have a fairytale finish, as the Hawks made it two wins against West Coast in the finals series, to claim their fifth premiership in nine seasons.
With a strong breeze favouring one end on another bitterly cold day in Melbourne, the Eagles had the first use and started strongly. The Eagles had four goals on the board in a flash with West Coast benefitting from the Hawks overly physical nature. Twice Peter Sumich booted goals from 50 metre penalties.
Despite the benefit of the wind, the Hawks booted late goals and seized control of the game in the second quarter. Hawthorn led by 10 points at half-time, and again by 10 points at three quarter time after the Eagles were unable to make the most of their second chance with the wind advantage.
Consecutive games in the wet on the heavy surface took its toll on the young Eagles, and the Hawks ran away with the game in the final quarter, eventually winning by 53 points. Despite the loss, the experience taught many lessons for much of the coming success, and is viewed as one of the big achievements in club history.
4. 2006 Grand Final & Sydney Rivalry
The Eagles secured their third premiership when they avenged the Grand Final defeat of the year before against the same opposition.
West Coast had finished the year on top of the ladder, but a loss to Sydney in the opening week had forced the Eagles to reach the Grand Final via a win over Adelaide in Adelaide. The one-point win to West Coast was the apex in an astonishing stretch of games between the Eagles and Swans that would be looked upon as one of the great rivalries in AFL history.
West Coast got the jump on Sydney in the opening quarter, with Ashley Hansen, Chris Judd and Ben Cousins all goaling in quick time to put West Coast out to an 18 point win. Hansen would boot a second in the opening term with the Eagles holding a 16 point lead at the first change.
The Eagles continued on in the 2nd quarter. Quinten Lynch stamped his mark on the game with two strong marks against Leo Barry in a matter of minutes to stretch the lead out to 28 points. Ben Cousins kicked his second for the game following a controversial free kick before Sydney closed the gap with some late goals. At the major break, the Eagles led by 25 points.
As was becoming symbolic of the clashes between West Coast and Sydney, the Swans got themselves back into the game. Michael O’Loughlin booted the first goal of the second half, and with Adam Goodes starting to impose himself on the game, the Swans got more drive through the middle.
Lynch kicked a third and Andrew Embley got on the scoreboard to keep the Swans at bay, but as the quarter wore on, the Swans crept closer. While Barry Hall was unable to have any influence matched against Darren Glass, O’Loughlin and Nick Davis were creating headaches for the Eagles defence. Lewis Roberts-Thomson kicked a rare goal and with one quarter left to play, the West Coast lead had been trimmed to 11 points.
That lead was further reduced when Adam Goodes booted a barnstorming goal from the opening bounce of the last quarter, within 15 seconds. The Eagles though would never give up their lead. The game took on a familiar slugfest in the final term as goals became diamonds for both sides.
Steven Armstrong bobbed up to dribble home a clever goal to give the Eagles breathing space, but the Swans responded immediately when Ryan O’Keefe floated home a goal. As the two teams battled on, the seminal moment of the game occurred with five minutes remaining. O’Keefe’s attempted clearance was smothered by Daniel Chick with the ball rebounding to Adam Hunter to put the Eagles seven points ahead.
Nick Malceski goaled to bring Sydney back within a point, but it would prove to be the final score of the game. Desperate efforts in the final moments including Chick’s chase down tackle on Ted Richards, Andrew Embley’s mark on the last line of defence, and Rowan Jones’ contest in the middle of the ground to get the ball out of bounds with seconds remaining all ensured West Coast would avenge the narrow loss of the year before.
Adam Hunter was switched forward in the final quarter and booted two goals, as West Coast snuck home by four points. The two side would meet again in the Grand Final, with the Swans breaking their premiership drought in a low-scoring contest. The final margin would again be four points and followed a similar trend of the Qualifying Final. The Eagles rebounded from 20 points down at half-time to lead by 10 points early in the final quarter when Adam Hunter – again swung forward – goaled from deep in the forward pocket. Ultimately, Amon Buchanan would be the hero, with his goal being the match-winner.
It would take until Round 15 of the 2006 season for the Grand Final rematch to take place, with West Coast sneaking home by two points. Again, it was a West Coast comeback in the second half after they trailed by 32 points at the major break. Remarkably, after margins of 4, 4 and 2, the margins got even closer.
Both contests in the 2006 finals series were decided by a point, with the Swans taking the win at Subiaco in the Qualifying Final, before the Eagles claimed the flag by the smallest margin. In the opening week of the finals, it was Barry Hall and Michael O’Loughlin who did the damage, booting 9 of Sydney’s 13 goals, including O’Loughlin’s memorable match-winner. In the Grand Final, West Coast bucked the trend to take the big lead, before holding off the Swans at the end.
Even after two season of absorbing battles, the Eagles and Swans did it again in the opening round of 2007. West Coast were without a host of premiership players, including Cousins, Fletcher, Cox, Embley and Hansen, but jumped the Swans with six first-quarter goals. The Eagles led by 14 points at quarter time and stretched their lead to 36 points at half-time on the back of stellar halves by Chris Judd and Daniel Kerr.
Naturally, the Swans fought their way back into the game. West Coast could only manage one goal after half-time, but like the Grand Final the Swans couldn’t hit the lead. Sydney had one final charge forward in the dying seconds, but Kerr’s flying tackle on Jarrad McVeigh saved the game for West Coast, adding another classic encounter in an amazing rivalry.
Six games from 2005 to 2007 were decided by a grand total of 13 points, the smallest cumulative margin across that many games between two sides in AFL history. The second clash of 2007 would be a ‘blowout’ with the Eagles again claiming the honours, this time by 12 points. The two sides were locked at half-time with West Coast getting home by two goals in a surprisingly high-scoring contest. The game would be most notable for Ben Cousins’ return to football after his hiatus from the start of the season to concentrate on his personal health.
The Eagles-Swans rivalry saw a number of tightly-contested games, often low-scoring and never without drama, and provided the impetus to one of the most successful periods for the club.
The most significant off-field move in the history of the West Coast Eagles was the decision to appoint Mick Malthouse as coach at the end of the 1989 season.
Following a disappointing season on-field, the Eagles hierarchy identified a number of weaknesses that needed correcting if West Coast were to become a force. One major flaw was the Eagles’ inability to win in Melbourne. West Coast had managed just five wins in it’s first three seasons in the competition and it was felt that a coach with Victorian experience would be more beneficial in overcoming this hurdle.
The Eagles’ first two coaches in Ron Alexander and John Todd were both icons in WAFL ranks, but lacked the knowledge of the Melbourne grounds and Victorian style of football. Malthouse had spent the past six seasons at Footscray, leading the Bulldogs into a preliminary final in his first season, before varied success in the years that followed.
With the arrival of Malthouse, a new match committee was formed involving Robert Wiley and Tim Gepp. Another key milestone was the Eagles finally setting up a set training base. Malthouse immediately brought in a longer style game plan, as well as a defensive mindset that would form the backbone of the Eagles success over the next decade.
Malthouse’s impact was immediate. West Coast climbed from their disappointing 1989 to finish 3rd in 1990, runner up in 1991 and premiers in 1992 and 1994. The Eagles would make finals in every year of his reign, and at the end of his time with West Coast, Malthouse would boast a 66% winning strike rate.
As well as being a force on the field, the Eagles became leaders off the field, and the direction provided by Malthouse when he first arrived at the club was instrumental in him leaving the Eagles at the end of 1999 as one of the top organisations in the competition.
2. West Coast’s First Game, Round 1 1987
A national competition was born in 1987 when both the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears played their first ever games. The Eagles hosted Richmond at Subiaco Oval, winning by 14 points. The Eagles debut seemed destined for a losing start when they trailed by 33 points at three-quarter time but a nine goal final quarter meant a historic victory to start the Eagles journey in the AFL.
It was an impressive beginning considering the Eagles almost didn’t get that far.
With the AFL eyeing national expansion, a vote was put to the existing AFL clubs as to where two new clubs would be located. While Brisbane were automatically accepted, the Victorian clubs were more hesitant to include a team from Perth, citing the strength of Western Australian football as being a major threat.
The clubs initially voted 7-5 in favour, one short of the required two-thirds needed to grant a licence. Fitzroy’s president Leon Wiegard would ultimately change his vote in favour and the Eagles were born. It was October 1986, and the Eagles first game was just five months away.
Despite the short timeframe, the Eagles named Ron Alexander as their first coach, put together a squad of 35 players (West Coast weren’t given the full quota of 52 that Victorian clubs had), established the name, logo and colours and secured a small number of sponsors and members.
On a warm Sunday afternoon on the last weekend in March 1987, the first 20 players to represent West Coast ran out in front of 30,000 people crammed into Subiaco Oval.
The team would be a diverse blend of players who had returned from Victoria, household names from the WAFL, and a bevy of youngsters – many who had starred in WA’s Teal Cup (U18) victory of 1985 – who would form the future generation of success.
Phil Narkle would receive the three Brownlow votes, Murray Wrensted would finish the Eagles main ball-winner with 29 and Wally Matera booted four goals, with Andrew MacNish and Laurie Keene kicking three each. Keene would go into the history books as the Eagles first ever goal scorer, but it was Richmond who had the better of the first half.
West Coast did well to remain only four points behind at half-time, but Richmond would make their dominance count in the third quarter, on the back of a sublime performance from a Western Australian champion. Maurice Rioli collected 37 possessions to lead the Tigers to a 33 point lead with just one quarter to play.
Coach Alexander threw the side around, most notably moving captain Ross Glendinning from the backline to centre half forward, and West Coast stormed home for a famous victory.
1. 1992 Grand Final
The most defining day in the 30 years of the West Coast Eagles was September 26, 1992 when the premiership cup was taken out of Victoria for the first time. For most West Coast fans, the first flag remains the favourite moment of all time, and signified that the competition was truly national.
The Eagles entered the 1992 as premiership favourites after finishing 3rd and 2nd in the preceding two years, but a third of the way through the year, West Coast looked anything but premier fancies. Just one win and a draw in the opening seven games had the Eagles sitting in 10th spot. Losses to lowly Sydney and Fitzroy, as well as a draw against the Bears had many questioning their credentials.
West Coast were suffering from interrupted pre-seasons to a number of stars, but as they returned through the second half of the season, the Eagles worked their way up the ladder. At the end of the home-and-away season, the Eagles found themselves in fourth, and were drawn against their 1991 nemesis Hawthorn in an elimination final.
The Hawks again travelled to Subiaco Oval, but this time the home side were able to exact some revenge and knock the reigning premiers out of the race. It was from there that the Eagles benefited from a slice of luck and a flawed finals system.
In the other elimination final, the sixth-placed Saints upset Collingwood who had finished third, catapulting the Eagles into a second semi-final against Geelong and a chance for direct entry into the Grand Final.
After an even first half, West Coast ran away from the Cats recording a 38 point win to reach a second successive playoff. Again the city of Perth were caught up in the mania of a Grand Final, but the Eagles had learned the lessons of 1991. Unlike the previous year, the Eagles released their players to the media allowing them to embrace the occasion. West Coast also flew over to partake in the Grand Final parade, which they had boycotted the year before.
Geelong bounced back from the semi-final defeat to easily defeat the Bulldogs in the preliminary final to qualify as West Coast’s opponents. The Cats got the early break during a fiery first half that contained a number of heated clashes. Geelong were keen to replicate the Hawks of the previous year in trying to physically intimidate West Coast and made their intentions clear from the outset.
Bill Brownless and Ashley McIntosh were involved in a scuffle before the first bounce, and then Don Pyke was ironed out by Gary Ablett midway through the first quarter. Pyke would later return, but the nature of the contest seemed to unsettle the Eagles. West Coast missed a host of chances, while the Cats capitalised on theirs, booting the first three goals of the game. Peter Matera finally got West Coast on the board, but the Eagles trailed by three goals at the first break.
Geelong continued on in the second quarter, extending the lead beyond four goals, which they held for much of the term. Peter Matera’s brilliance kept West Coast in the game, as they struggled to penetrate a Geelong defence led by Michael Mansfield and Ken Hinkley. Paul Couch and Mark Bairstow were doing all the damage in the midfield as too many Eagles failed to get into the game.
One such player was Brett Heady, but Malthouse’s decision to move him into the middle onto Couch would prove to be one of the telling in the game. Heady completely shut Couch out, while gathering plenty of the ball himself and as half-time neared, West Coast made their charge.
Tony Evans booted two goals in a minute, the second after a swift transition from defence when Neville Bruns spilled a mark in front of Brownless. Sumich then snapped a goal with just seconds remaining to have West Coast behind by 12 points at the main change.
Although they hadn’t taken the lead, the Eagles were full of the momentum, and even a Gary Ablett goal to start the third quarter couldn’t halt them. Tony Evans replied with his third for the game, before Peter Wilson’s miraculous goal over his head drew West Coast closer. The comeback would be completed from the next centre clearance when Matera would put the Eagles in front for the first time of the afternoon, and West Coast wouldn’t look back.
West Coast turned for home with a 17 point lead and the final quarter became a celebration. Matera added his fifth goal in a performance that would deliver him the Norm Smith Medal, while Peter Sumich added three final quarter goals to end the day with six.
Brett Heady finished with 28 disposals, ahead of Dean Kemp and Pyke who both collected 20. In defence Brownless and Ablett were both well held by McIntosh and Brennan respectively, with Guy McKenna providing plenty of rebound.
The Eagles claimed their first ever premiership with a 28 point win over Geelong to put themselves into the AFL history books.
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
10. First Home Final, 1991
9. First Derby 1995 / Fremantle Rivalry
8. Ben Cousins Fall From Grace
7. West Coast Club Culture Investigation
6. The Collapse of Indian Pacific Ltd
5. First Grand Final, 1991
4. 2006 Premiership / Sydney Rivalry 2005-2007
3. Appointment of Michael Malthouse
2. First Ever Game, Round 1 1987 v Richmond
1. First Premiership, 1992