In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, when they snuck home by a point against the Tigers at the MCG.
The Eagles were outplayed for most of the afternoon by a much improved Richmond outfit who sat bottom of the ladder with three losses from their opening four games, including a 21 goal hiding by Geelong.
A four-goal burst at the start of the final term proved the difference, as West Coast overturned a 20 point deficit at the final change to claim victory by the smallest of margins.
Peculiarly, despite recording only their 2nd win from five games, the Eagles found themselves back in the top six, due the AFL’s perplexing system of match ratio having greater weight than points gained. West Coast sat sixth ahead of Hawthorn, St.Kilda and Essendon despite having two less points, by virtue of also having played one less game.
Despite re-entering the top six, coach Mick Malthouse was under no illusions as to the improvement needed in his side, after scratchy performances against the Swans, Bears and Tigers, who were all expected to battle for the wooden spoon.
“We haven’t played good football for a number of weeks. Today’s win will be a terrific boost for the boys – it’s not going to get us out of the mire, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
“I would have robbed for that win. In one sense, I suppose we did.”
While Malthouse was thankful that his side was able to scramble over the line, he was less complimentary towards the MCC over the state of the ground. A pre-match inspection of the oval identified a number of holes within the surface, with Malthouse demanding officials fill in the holes before the game started.
“There were a couple of areas that weren’t too flash. We certainly weren’t going to go out there until a couple of holes were filled in.”
“The umpires also had a look at them as well and they weren’t keen to run out there either.”
Malthouse had every reason to share his concerns about the state of the ground, with the Eagles battling the worst injury crisis in club history.
14 key players were unavailable through injury, with Brett Heady, Peter Matera and late withdrawal Craig Turley all additions during the week following the draw with Brisbane. David Hynes and Peter Sumich both survived fitness tests despite not training all week, but with players running out to choose from, the Eagles were forced to call on some more fresh faces.
Adrian Barich was given his first game of the season and Brendan Krummel was brought in for his AFL debut. Daniel Metropolis got a reprieve with Turley’s withdrawal, while Ryan Turnbull was also brought into the side to lead the ruck, at the expense of Paul Harding who had had a disappointing fortnight.
With 10 players missing from the team that took part in the 1991 Grand Final, it was left to a couple of underperforming stars to lift the Eagles over the line. Scott Watters and Chris Mainwaring had both had poor starts to the season, but responded to calls to be dropped by being leading ball winners for West Coast.
Watters finished with 25 disposals playing through the centre in a shutdown role on Richmond playmaker Dale Weightman, while Mainwaring had 22 and booted a crucial goal in the final term. Dwayne Lamb also had a tagging role on Richmond midfielder Craig Lambert, leaving a number of unsung Tigers and a couple of former Eagles to lead the way.
Todd Breman and Stevan Jackson both switched to Punt Road before the start of the 1992 season and both caused early problems for West Coast up forward. Breman booted two early in the game opposed to John Worsfold before finishing with three, while Jackson gave Glen Jakovich the run around at centre half forward.
Jackson took seven marks in the opening half and had a hand in a number of goals, with Michael Brennan moved onto him after half time. Youngsters Chris Naish and Wayne Campbell who finished the day with 27 and 25 disposals respectively stepped up with Weightman and Lambert held, while Terry Keays had a day out at centre half back.
Keays had the better of David Hynes, Paul Peos and Jakovich as Malthouse swung the changes at half time in search of a winning combination. John Worsfold was thrown into the centre, Dean Laidley came off the bench onto a wing and Ryan Turnbull moved to full-back, but West Coast continued to struggle.
Richmond led the way in most areas on the ground, and in the third term the Tigers finally got deserved reward. Richmond led by only a goal at the main break, but a five goal to two third quarter gave the home side a decisive break that appeared to be enough with one quarter to play.
With the 1992 season hanging by a thread, the Eagles coach implored his side to lift their intensity and another batch of moves finally got West Coast to click.
Glen Jakovich proved the pivotal move after an ordinary first three quarters. After a failed stint forward, the young defender started the final quarter in the ruck and he responded with 7 disposals, 3 marks, 6 hitouts and a goal.
Karl Langdon – who had sat on the bench since the opening quarter when he was more interested in interacting with the Richmond supporters - came back onto the ground in place of Peter Sumich, who struggled in his second game back from an ankle injury.
The Eagles got their game going and goals to Langdon, Mainwaring, Jakovich and Dean Laidley in the opening 12 minutes saw West Coast hit the front. Tony Free snapped a clever goal to level the scores, before Langdon booted his second of the term to give the Eagles an eight point lead with only minutes remaining.
Dale Weightman responded for the Tigers in the final minute to reduce the margin to a single point, but the Eagles held on for an important win.
Match Details Sunday 26 April 1992
West Coast 3.5 6.7 9.9 14.13 (97)
Richmond 2.5 7.7 12.11 14.12 (96)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 17,629
Best: WCE S Watters, C Mainwaring, K Langdon, J Worsfold, G Jakovich, C Lewis
RIC C Naish, T Breman, W Campbell, C Lambert, S Turner, T Keays
Goals: WCE K Langdon 3, P Peos, D Hynes 2, C Mainwaring, G Jakovich, C Lewis, D Laidley, T Nichols, D Metropolis, P Sumich.
RIC T Breman, J Hogg 3, C Naish, C Lambert, T Free, D Weightman, M Knights, B Leys, B Lennon, T Menegola.
Brownlow: 3. C. Naish (RIC)
2. C. Mainwaring (WCE)
1. J. Worsfold (WCE)