West Coast secured a chance to avenge their 2005 Grand Final defeat when they overcame the Crows in the Preliminary Final.
With the Swans taking care of Fremantle the night before, the Eagles set the stage for a re-match after a come-from-behind victory against the Crows.
The Eagles trailed by 22 points at half-time, after managing just two goals in the first half, but surged past Adelaide in the second half, despite the Crows enjoying the luxury of the week off during the semi-finals.
The win made it five out of the past six games against the Crows, with the Eagles ending Adelaide’s season for the second year running.
It was the old firm who drove the Eagles win, with Chris Judd collecting 29 disposals, while Ben Cousins (27), Dean Cox (27), Daniel Kerr (25) and Andrew Embley (24) were all influential as the West Coast midfield overwhelmed the Crows.
As they did in the Round 17 thrashing, the Eagles used handball to break through the Crows defensive set-up, and as the second half wore on, Adelaide were unable to contain the Eagles run.
The Crows’ cause wasn’t helped with two risky selections which impacted the Crows midfield flexibility. Brett Burton and Andrew McLeod were both brought into the Adelaide side after stints on the sidelines. McLeod played his first game in a month following a knee injury, while Burton returned for his first game since Round 18 after a hamstring tear.
The Eagles had also made two changes for the game, with David Wirrpanda ruled out after injuring a hamstring in the previous weeks win against the Bulldogs. Jaymie Graham was brought back into the team as his replacement with his height crucial against the trio of tall Adelaide forwards in Scott Stevens, Ian Perrie and Brett Burton.
Matt Rosa was replaced by veteran Drew Banfield, although the young midfielder could consider himself unlucky after 23 disposals and 8 marks in the semi-final.
Iniitally though, the inclusions by the Crows were paying off. Adam Selwood was matched up on Burton as Worsfold looked to expose his lack of recent match fitness, but Burton was too strong for Selwood aerially.
Burton took several strong marks around the ground, including a hanger over Tyson Stenglein in the Eagles forward 50. Burton’s start was capped off when he booted the Crows third goal of the opening quarter, which gave the home side an early break in front of over 50,000 people.
The Eagles had controlled enough of the ball in the first term, but were unable to make anything happen in the forward half. Graham Johncock and Tyson Edwards were repelling Eagle entries as Ashley Hansen and Quinten Lynch spurned the few shots on goal West Coast could manage.
Ben Cousins had also started forward for the Eagles, to shake the attention of tagger Robert Shirley who subsequently went to Kerr. After being held goalless in the opening quarter, the Eagles got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter through Kerr who snapped truly.
Adelaide got the quick reply when Jaymie Graham was caught holding the ball, with Matthew Bode booting his first of the afternoon. The game then threatened to turn against the Crows when big man Rhett Biglands injured a knee after crashing into teammate Nathan Van Berlo.
Biglands absence exposed the Adelaide midfield who were already down on rotations with McLeod and Burton being managed through the interchange bench. Biglands’ injury also released Cox who was too mobile for the aging Matthew Clarke. While Clarke would ultimately win the hit-outs, the Eagles took control at the clearances and Cox became a dominant force around the ground.
Adam Hunter was moved forward permanently after quarter time, and contributed the Eagles second goal of the game to draw them back within 10 points. The Crows though got the final two goals of the half.
Matthew Bode swooped for his second goal of the term after Drew Banfield dropped a mark in defence, before Burton out-marked Selwood in a one-on-one contest to kick his second goal of the game. The Crows had a solid lead but the Eagles were the healthier side as the sides returned from the main break.
This was proven true in the opening 10 minutes of the third quarter, as spiritual leader Ben Cousins helped West Coast back into the contest. In a flash, the Eagles booted three goals, to reduce the margin to one point. A 50m penalty to Michael Braun got the run started as he found Hunter on the lead.
Braun was involved again when he picked off Graham Johncock’s clearing pass. Braun offloaded to Cox who kicked long to the goal square. Adam Hunter couldn’t take the mark, but a scrap for the ball finally led to Andrew Embley soccering off the ground.
The Eagles were dominating the centre clearances, with Cousins leading the charge. Cousins booted the Eagles third goal in the opening ten minutes to erase the Crows half-time advantage. Cousins then found Hunter from the next centre bounce, but the swing-man could only manage to hit the post from a tight angle. Cousins would tally 11 possessions in an inspirational third term as Nathan Van Berlo lost control of the former Eagle captain.
Tyson Edwards was able to steady the Eagles momentum with an Adelaide goal, before a linking chain of handpasses resulted in a third goal of the game for Adam Hunter. The Eagles kept using handball to pierce the Crows defence, although a mix-up between Brett Jones and Adam Selwood turned the ball over to Andrew McLeod who extended the Crows lead back to 9 points.
The Eagles kept pushing at the start of the final quarter, and their run continued to trouble the home side. The Eagles closed again to within one point when Hunter booted his fourth goal after the Eagles went coast to coast from the Adelaide backline. Moments later the Eagles had the lead for the first time when Quinten Lynch finally broke clear of Nathan Bassett to boot his only goal of the game.
The Eagles though weren’t done running.
A long bomb from Lynch was marked by Embley who goaled from the goal square before a Matthew Clarke goal against the run of play kept Adelaide in touch. The Eagles were peppering the goals as they controlled the midfield and held the ball in the forward half, and when Sam Butler finally capitalised from a boundary throw in the Eagles were 16 points ahead with little time remaining.
Rowan Jones had a chance to finish the contest off, but his shot from the goal square cannoned into the post leaving Adelaide clinging to the game. Nathan Bock kicked consecutive goals for Adelaide, the second courtesy of a turnover from an Eagles kick-in.
With the final seconds counting down, Adelaide were set to get the ball forward from the centre bounce through Simon Goodwin, but a free kick to Stenglein halted their drive. Stenglein found Fletcher at half forward, who in turn found Hansen on the lead as the final siren sounded.
The Eagles were now in their second consecutive Grand Final as they looked to end a 12-year premiership drought.
Match Details Saturday 23 September 2006
West Coast 0.4 2.7 6.12 11.19 (85)
Adelaide 3.3 6.5 8.8 11.9 (75)
Football Park Attendance: 50,514
Best: WC Cox, Cousins, Judd, Embley, Kerr, Hunter, Glass,
ADE Johncock, Burton, Rutten, Bock, Clarke, McLeod
Goals: WC Hunter 4, Embley 2, Kerr, Cousins, Lynch, Butler, Hansen.
ADE Bock 3, Burton, Bode 2, Welsh, Edwards, McLeod, Clarke.