In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast’s 1992 season plunged to new depths when they crashed to Fitzroy by 20 points in Hobart.
The Lions jumped out of the blocks in the opening quarter to lead by four goals, and maintained that lead for much of the day in front of a disappointing crowd of less than 9,000.
Charismatic full forward Darren Whieldon was the catalyst for the Lions fast start, booting four goals in the opening quarter opposed to Michael Brennan, eventually finishing the afternoon with six.
The loss left the Eagles with two and a half wins after Round 7 and languishing in 10th spot – the Eagles lowest ladder position since the darkest days of mid-1989.
It capped a grueling three week period for the Eagles, who had traveled to Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart for consecutive games, returning a win, a draw and a loss.
Coach Michael Malthouse lamented his side’s lethargic attitude. “There’s no excuse for today’s effort, none whatsoever. But I will say that after the third week on the road, if I’m going to give the players an out, perhaps they were a little jaded.”
The Eagles were again forced into multiple changes for the game, as the injury crisis deepened.
Brett Heady and Guy McKenna were both still deemed to be a week away due to hamstring and groin issues, respectively, while Don Pyke was set for a longer stint on the sidelines with damaged ligaments in his ankle. Ashley McIntosh and Peter Wilson were still some time away, having just resumed with Claremont and East Fremantle.
Peter Sumich was spared the trip to Hobart, following his two games returning from an ankle injury. After both matches, Sumich had suffered swelling in his ankles with Malthouse admitting West Coast were struggling with a tough balance for their full forward.
“On one hand we are trying to get match fitness in for Peter, and on the other we are probably pushing him a little too hard…”
Sumich’s omission though paved the way for the return of Mark Hepburn, who played his first game for the club in eight months, after a drop in form during the 1991 season was followed by persistent groin problems. Hepburn became the 30th player West Coast had used in just six games in 1992. Peter Matera and Troy Ugle were the other two inclusions for rookie Brendan Krummel and Adrian Barich who were both dropped.
Hepburn started at centre half forward, with David Hynes named at full forward, but the Eagles forward line failed to function for much of the first half.
At the other end, Darren Whieldon was proving too much to handle for Eagles defender Michael Brennan. Ross Lyon picked up 13 first quarter possessions through the midfield and former Eagle Joe Cormack had seven, on the way to 17 first-half disposals.
In a bitter twist for West Coast, Marcus Seecamp was also one of the Lions best, after being overlooked by West Coast in the draft at the start of the season. Seecamp and Jason Ball were both considered by West Coast as a pre-selection draft pick, with the Eagles ultimately choosing the tall forward. Seecamp was picked up by the Lions in the National Draft and was having a solid start to the 1992 season, picking up 14 disposals against the Eagles.
Fitzroy benefited from their previous experience on the ground, compared to the visitor’s who were on their first outing. Compared to Subiaco, North Hobart was 30 metres shorter and while the Eagles played defensively hugging the boundary line, the Lions were much more efficient at moving the ball forward through the use of handball directly down the centre of the ground.
The Lions had 36 handballs in the opening quarter compared to just 15 for the Eagles and were rewarded with five of the six goals kicked in the quarter. It didn’t get any better for West Coast after the first change, with the Lions booting the opening two goals of the second term, including a freakish goal to Darren Whieldon who now had John Worsfold as his opponent.
A scrambled kick into the Fitzroy forward line reached the grappling pair of Whieldon and Worsfold. Whieldon in his attempt to control the ball, tapped it towards the boundary line about 25 metres out, before swinging a wild boot at it to send it through the goals post high. The extraordinary goal put the Lions 36 points up and the Eagles were never going to catch them.
Mitchell White became Whieldon’s third opponent shortly after, and managed to subdue the full forward, restricting him to just one more goal for the game. Worsfold was moved into the centre to man Lyon and kept him to just 10 disposals after half time.
With Fitzroy’s danger men being held, the Eagles started to get on top around the ground, but still struggled to find a winner up forward. Karl Langdon was having a dirty day against Paul Roos, who would finish the game as clear best on ground. Roos stood in the way of many of the Eagles’ attacks as he tallied 33 disposals and 15 marks at half back.
Michael Brennan, Mark Hepburn and Paul Peos were all tried but none could exert any influence. Troy Ugle booted four goals to be the Eagles’ only effective forward in a game.
The one highlight from the game for West Coast was the performance of Glen Jakovich in just his 22nd game. Thrown in to lead the ruck, Jakovich was one of the best Eagles on the ground opposed to Lions ruckman Stephen Paxman. Although Paxman won the hit-outs, Jakovich was one of the key ball winners, collecting 25 disposals, 9 marks and a goal, continuing on from his final quarter the week before against Richmond.
Dwayne Lamb and Chris Waterman were the leading ball winners for West Coast, Peter Matera had 18 disposals in his return on a wing and Dean Kemp won his duel with Fitzroy midfielder Jim Wynd, but there were too few winners for West Coast.
The Eagles were able to reduce the margin to 20 points by the final siren, but the game was lost in the opening half, leaving coach Mick Malthouse to ponder the finals hopes of his side. Malthouse though refused to use the growing injury list as an excuse, opting to quote Confucius to explain his side’s predicament.
“The ox is slow, but the Earth is patient.”
“We’ve just got to stick to basics and get back to the training track. The training form can be misleading because our training had picked up this week and I was optimistic about this game.”
Match Details Sunday 3 May 1992
Fitzroy 5.4 9.7 13.9 15.12 (102)
West Coast 1.4 3.9 7.12 11.16 (82)
North Hobart Attendance: 8,819
Best: FITZ P Roos, D Whieldon, R Lyon, B Stephens, M Seecamp, M Dundas, J Cormack
WCE G Jakovich, D Lamb, T Ugle, P Matera, C Waterman, D Kemp
Goals: FITZ D Whieldon 6, R Osborne 3, J Blakey 2, R Lyon, S Paxman, D Harding, J Guard.
WCE T Ugle 4, M Brennan 2, D Hynes, G Jakovich, C Lewis, D Metropolis, C Waterman.
Brownlow: 3. P.Roos (FITZ)
2. M.Dundas (FITZ)
1. B.Stephens (FITZ)