In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast secured their eighth win in nine matches, with an unconvincing win over the Swans in Perth.
The Eagles ran out 53 point winners but were well below their best as the 14th-placed Sydney showed more desire around the ball.
Trailing by nine points midway through the second term, a five goal burst in 14 minutes turned the game the Eagles way as they took a 25 point lead into half-time.
The Swans were still in the game when David Strooper kicked the opening goal of the final term to reduce the Eagles lead to 21 points. However, the Eagles went on another run kicking six of the final seven goals in the game to stretch out the final lead.
Sydney came into the game as $10 outsiders on the back of a seven game losing streak but showed greater intensity as midfielders Barry Mitchell, Ben Doolan and Paul Kelly dominated early possession.
The Eagles assigned David Hart to Mitchell in the opening term but the Sydney rover racked up 11 first quarter possessions, bringing about a change after quarter time.
Dwayne Lamb took over, as Malthouse swung the side around. Peter Wilson moved to the half back flank, Paul Peos and Karl Langdon came off the bench and Mitchell White moved to full back with Ashley McIntosh ruled out for the day with a thigh injury.
Sydney were more desperate for the ball, but the Eagles were clinical on the scoreboard and started to make the inexperienced Swans pay for costly turnovers.
Peter Sumich, who had been flu-ridden for much of the week leading into the game and was only a confirmed starter on the morning of the game, kicked two quick goals as West Coast finally clicked into gear.
Peter Matera was the spark on the wing giving the Eagles plenty of drive. Matera had booted the Eagles only two goals in the opening quarter and gave second-gamer Damian Ancove the run around the longer the game went on.
On the opposite wing, stand-in captain Chris Mainwaring was in a fierce battle with Paul Kelly, but would finish as the leading ball-winner for West Coast with 26 disposals, including a goal.
Glen Jakovich was dominant at centre half back and Paul Harding had the better of Sydney ruckman Brad Tunbridge. Tunbridge was best on ground when the Swans upset the Eagles in Round 2, but was shadowed by Harding and Hynes who was influential both in the ruck and across half-forward.
Coach Mick Malthouse admitted the performance was well below the Eagles best, but was happy to secure another four points as spots in the top six heated up.
“It wasn’t what you’d call an encouraging display, but we got the four points and they’re badly needed.
“There was nothing to get enthusiastic about… and we’ve got work to do in certain areas. We were second to the ball way too often, our tackling has got to improve… not enough to worry the sides we’ll be playing in the next couple of weeks.”
The Eagles stayed in fourth following the win, as the top three sides also all won. The Magpies and Cats had easy wins over Brisbane and Melbourne, while the Bulldogs overcame the Saints at Moorabbin with a gritty 13 point win. The Bulldogs were forced to make six changes due to injury but were still able to inflict a second straight loss on the Saints who were now facing a battle to hold their spot in the six.
Carlton replaced the Hawks in the top six after the Blues came out 12 point winners in their clash at Waverley. Hawthorn dropped to seventh, with the Bombers moving up to eighth following a similarly critical match with Fitzroy. Former Eagle Joe Cormack missed a straight forward shot which would have sealed victory for the Lions, only for Gary O’Donnell to kick the winner minutes later and see the Bombers get home by three points.
Having sat on the edge of the top six for much of the year, Fitzroy’s loss seemed to consign them to another season without finals. The Swans hadn’t been on the 1992 finals radar for the majority of the season, but coach Gary Buckenara took plenty of positives from his sides performance in what is regarded as one of the toughest trips in football.
“We battled hard and put our bodies on the line. I don’t think we get too much reward for putting our bodies on the line. I am not going to criticise the umpires but we seem to battle to get the free kicks that the top sides get.”
While Buckenara was pleased enough with the effort from his players, the Sydney coach had a dire warning for the future of the club in the AFL after losing a further two players with injury. Andrew McGovern lasted only a couple of minutes due to a broken foot before Gavin Rose succumbed to a knee problem just before half-time meaning just 18 players were available in the second half.
The Swans had had issues with player depth all season with injuries hitting a number of key senior players. Buckenara was adamant that AFL assistance was required immediately to assist the ailing Swans, as well as the Brisbane Bears, with the two teams occupying the bottom two spots on the ladder.
In the week leading up to the Swans clash with West Coast, the AFL had held a meeting with all clubs to discuss what assistance could be given to the Bears and Swans. The struggling clubs both requested that they receive pre-draft selections in a bid to bolster squad depths and fast track devleopment, but the majority of clubs - namely Hawthorn and Footscray - remained opposed to the idea.
Buckenara questioned the commitment of the AFL to making sure football could succeed in New South Wales and Queensland, believeing the Swans wouldn’t survive past 1993 without immediate assistance from the AFL.
Match Details Sunday 12 July 1992
West Coast 2.1 8.5 10.8 16.11 (107)
Sydney 3.3 4.4 6.4 8.6 (54)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 28,397
Best: WCE P Matera, C Mainwaring, G Jakovich, P Harding, P Wilson, D Kemp, D Hynes
SYD B Mitchell, B Doolan, P Kelly, L Higgins, C Nettelbeck, J Lawson
Goals: WCE P Matera 3, D Hynes, P Sumich, T Evans 2, P Peos, D Kemp, C Mainwaring, K Langdon, C Waterman, C Lewis, C Turley.
SYD B Mitchell, S Minton-Connell 2, C Nettelbeck, D Holmes, D Cresswell, D Strooper.
Brownlow: 3. P.Matera (WCE)
2. G.Jakovich (WCE)
1. J.Lawson (SYD)