In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast’s unimpressive start to 1992 continued when they could only manage a draw against the lowly Brisbane Bears at Carrara.
Ray Windsor had the final say when his set shot on the final siren levelled scores at 92 apiece in a performance that left Eagles coach Mick Malthouse with plenty of questions at the end of Round 5.
The Eagles played the better football for much of the afternoon, but poor skill errors kept the Bears in the contest. West Coast were continuing to show the ill-effects of a long injury list that had disrupted the pre-season preparations for many of the senior players and only seemed to be getting longer. Brett Heady and Craig Turley were two more casualties during the game, and while Turley was expected to recover from a corked thigh, Heady faced a further stint on the sidelines after injuring a hamstring.
Heady had only just returned to Eagles line-up from an ankle injury suffered in the win over St.Kilda along Peter Sumich and Michael Brennan who had mixed first-up appearances.
Sumich booted 2.5 in his first game since the Eagles second round loss to Geelong in the Fosters Cup. Sumich initially served a two game ban for striking Mark Neeld before tweaking an ankle at training ahead of the loss to the Cats last week.
Malthouse acknowledged that Sumich was ‘carried’ in the game against Brisbane, with the Eagles match committee opting to rush the full forward straight into the side. Brennan played his first game for West Coast after a couple of games with East Fremantle and was serviceable down back.
Malthouse admitted that the group was struggling to find confidence on the back of an inadequate pre-season. While the attitude and endeavor were evident on the field, the polish was lacking and the Eagles’ cause wasn’t being helped by the multitude of changes to the side from week to week.
Andrew Lockyer (knee), Don Pyke (ankle) and Guy McKenna (groin) all couldn’t be considered after the loss to Geelong, while Daniel Metropolis and Ryan Turnbull were omitted. For Metropolis, it was a sharp fall from grace to start his AFL career, dropped just a fortnight after kicking six goals on debut.
Trent Nichols came in for his first game at the club after switching across from Richmond in the off-season, while Mitchell White came in for his second game of the season. However, neither player had significant impact, as once again too much was left to too few.
Dean Kemp was once again the Eagles best, continuing a fine start to the season. Chris Lewis also continued his resurgence towards the 1990 form he produced and Peter Matera provided plenty of run on the wing. However the Bears aptitude stifled the Eagles from generating much drive.
Before the game, Brisbane coach Robert Walls called on his side to match the strong defensive game style that defined Malthouse’s tenure at West Coast. Much like the Swans had done three weeks earlier, the Bears increased numbers around the ball to create more stoppages and cramp the outside runners of West Coast.
The Bears also benefitted from a number of tight match-ups that restricted the Eagle playmakers. Marcus Ashcroft was the best player on the ground and outpointed Craig Turley to finish with 29 disposals and three goals. Former Eagle John Gastev restricted Brett Heady before he got injured, Martin Leslie shut out Paul Peos and David Bain collected 25 possessions roving opposed to Scott Watters.
The Eagles started the brighter of the two sides, and as the match wore on it seemed only a matter of time until they broke away. However, poor kicking at goal wasn’t just reward for the visitors. With a quarter to play, West Coast had managed seven more inside-50’s but led by only seven points.
The Bears levelled early in the final term and the two sides slugged it out, before a running Dean Kemp goal with a minute remaining seemed to secure all four points for West Coast. However, a mis-kick by Laidley from the next centre bounce turned the ball over to the Bears where a scrappy snapped kick was marked by Brisbane tall Ray Windsor, as opponent Mitchell White slipped over.
The drawn result meant that the Bears had registered their first points against West Coast, despite both teams entering the AFL at the same time five seasons earlier. Robert Walls praised his sides performance, with 14 players having played 25 games or less of AFL.
For Malthouse, the result wouldn’t lead to wholesale changes, despite the immediate concern over the poor form of some key players. Chris Mainwaring, Karl Langdon, Scott Watters and Craig Turley had all had underwhelming starts to the season, but with a mounting injury list, Malthouse was adamant he would stick by his besieged side during a testing early season period.
The Bears clash was the first of three consecutive away games for West Coast, with games against Richmond in Melbourne and Fitzroy in Hobart to come. With just one and a half wins at the end of Round 5, the next fortnight could have a significant implication on the Eagles’ finals chances.
Match Details Saturday 18 April 1992
Brisbane 3.2 6.5 10.6 14.8 (92)
West Coast 4.5 6.10 10.13 13.14 (92)
Carrara Attendance: 6,923
Best: BRI M Ashcroft, D Bain, D Noonan, J Gastev, R Champion, T Clarke
WCE D Kemp, C Lewis, P Matera, J Worsfold, D Laidley, J Worsfold
Goals: BRI M Ashcroft, J Hutton 3, D Noonan, R Windsor 2, D Bain, R Merrett, L Schache, P Worsfold
WCE P Sumich, P Peos, P Matera 2, D Kemp, B Heady, D Laidley, C Lewis, T Nichols, C Turley, M White
Brownlow: 3. M.Ashcroft (BRI)
2. D.Bain (BRI)
1. D.Kemp (WCE)