West Coast put in their finest performance of the season when they defeated Footscray by 59 points at Subiaco.
The Bulldogs arrived in town on top of the ladder, but left with their tails between their legs after an opening quarter blitz.
The Eagles piled on 8.6 to just a point to finally display the 1991 form that had evaded them through the first seven rounds of the season. The Eagles had lost to lowly Sydney and Fitzroy, drawn with the Bears and escaped with a one point win against Richmond in an uninspiring start to the year, but saved their best effort of the season for one of the early season flag favourites.
The return to form coincided with the return from injury of Guy McKenna, Craig Turley, Brett Heady – who booted an equal career best seven goals – and Ashley McIntosh who was rushed in for his first Eagles game of the season, after just one outing with Claremont.
McIntosh kicked four goals to be the perfect foil to Heady, and the duo also took 20 marks between them as West Coast tallied their highest score of the season.
Footscray had never won against the Eagles in Perth and were humbled by 118 points last season, when Peter Sumich kicked a club record 13 goals. In 1992, the Bulldogs were a different proposition, winning five of their first six games but the demons of last season were revisited, even with last year’s destroyer still sitting on the sidelines.
Brett Heady kicked four of the Eagles eight opening quarter goals, forcing a desperate reshuffle in defence by Footscray coach Terry Wheeler. Bernard Toohey was shifted off Heady at quarter time, with both Matthew Mansfield and Steven Wallis spending time on the Eagles forward.
While Heady was causing headaches for the Bulldogs defence, at the other end West Coast were resolute, led by the returning Guy McKenna. McKenna, matched against rookie Footscray player Chris Grant, repelled many of the Bulldog foray forwards forming an impenetrable half-back line alongside Dean Laidley and Dean Kemp.
West Coast continued on their way after quarter time, booting the opening goal of the 2nd quarter before Steven Kolyniuk finally managed to open the Dogs account. The Eagles kicked five goals to three in the second term, to stretch their lead to 65 points at the main break.
Peter Matera was having his best game of the season on the Subiaco wings opposed to Rohan Smith, while Dwayne Lamb was assigned the task of holding Tony Liberatore. Chris Mainwaring was getting plenty of the ball on the other wing while Chris Lewis was continuing his early-season form revival through the middle.
After half-time, the Bulldogs got going kicking the first four goals of the term, including three in a row to Doug Hawkins who had moved deep forward. Jon Ballantyne booted the other, and heading towards three quarter time, the Eagles lead had been reduced to 43 points.
With several of the underdone Eagles starting to show signs of fatigue, Footscray continued to push forward, but a moment of courage from an Eagles youngster stalled the Bulldog momentum. Mitchell White ran back with the flight of the ball to intercept a certain mark to Hawkins, with West Coast able to sweep the ball up the other end for Ashley McIntosh for a two goal turnaround. Brett Heady then booted his 7th of the match on the three quarter time siren to take the Eagles lead back to 57 points and West Coast never looked in danger from then on.
Heady was rested in the final term, with the Eagles mindful of his suspect hamstrings but there were plenty of contributors in the Eagles forward half. McIntosh had the better of Tony Campbell, Troy Ugle finished with three goals and David Hynes provided a strong focal point at full forward.
Glen Jakovich was again influential changing through the ruck with Mark Hepburn. The two Eagles rotated between the ruck and centre half back in short bursts against leading Footscray ruckman Scott Wynd. While Wynd won the hit-outs comprehensively, Jakovich and Hepburn had plenty of the ball around the ground and the Eagles midfielders won plenty of the ball around the stoppages.
West Coast booted a further five goals to the visitors’ four to round out the 59 point win, their eighth consecutive win against Footscray. Despite the poor start to the season, the win lifted the Eagles to 8th on the ladder, just two points outside the top six. Footscray dropped to second on the ladder on percentage behind Geelong, with Collingwood and Carlton also equal on points.
While West Coast enjoyed their strongest effort of the season, there were still ramifications in the following days. Chris Lewis was reported during the game for rough conduct against Bulldog Steve MacPherson. With the two players grappling in the third term, Lewis was charged for sticking his finger in MacPherson’s eye.
Following a 90 minute hearing by video link, Lewis was found not guilty with MacPherson agreeing that any contact with his eye by Lewis was likely to be accidental. MacPherson himself was reported in the first quarter for kneeing Peter Matera, but was also found not guilty when tribunal chairman Neil Busse accepted MacPherson’s testimony that he was trying to jump over Matera who was on the ground.
The Eagles though faced further scrutiny over Lewis’ tribunal hearing after they disallowed the Perth media from attending the hearing. Football manager Trevor Nisbett claimed they were preventing the hearing from becoming “a circus” after Lewis received a three week penalty for biting Melbourne’s Todd Viney at the back end of 1991.
Chairman Neil Busse queried the basis for West Coast barring Perth journalists, stating that any future occurrence would see the club reprimanded. The tribunal issues took the focus away from an important win for West Coast with the only other sour note from the game being a hamstring injury to Michael Brennan which was likely to rule him out for at least a fortnight.
Match Details Sunday 10 May 1992
West Coast 8.6 13.8 15.14 19.19 (133)
Footscray 0.1 3.3 7.5 11.8 (74)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 25,234
Best: WCE B Heady, G Jakovich, G McKenna, P Matera, C Lewis, D Lamb, A McIntosh
FOO S MacPherson, D Baxter, S Atkins, D Hawkins, P Foster
Goals: WCE B Heady 7, A McIntosh 4, T Ugle 3, P Matera 2, G Jakovich, D Hynes, C Turley.
FOO J Ballantyne, D Hawkins 3, M Mansfield, S Kolyniuk 2, G Coleman.
Brownlow: 3. P.Matera (WCE)
2. A.McIntosh (WCE)
1. B.Heady (WCE)