Mick Malthouse has a pretty simple mantra.
A good defence will always beat a good offence.
West Coast bounced back from their disappointing loss to St.Kilda with an upset 19 point win over ladder leading Geelong at Kardinia Park.
The Cats were averaging nearly 150 points per game through their opening 17 matches in 1992, but were held to their second-lowest score of the season, strangled by the Eagles defensive mechanism.
Even with the additions of Barry Stoneham and Gary Ablett, returning from shoulder and neck injuries respectively, the Cats were unable to breach a defiant West Coast defence.
The Eagles made a host of changes to the side that showed little against the Saints, although three were forced through injury. David Hart, who became just the sixth Eagle to play 100 games the week before, was sidelined with an ankle injury, while Scott Watters couldn’t come up due to soreness from the game played in heavy conditions at Waverley.
Chris Waterman, one of the few players to play all of the Eagles 16 games in 1992, injured an ankle at training and couldn't be considered, while Paul Peos and David Hynes were dropped after poor performances.
The Eagles match committee, mindful of the Geelong attack, brought in a host of players who had stronger defensive mindsets. Matt Clape and Dean Laidley were both rewarded with strong recent WAFL form to slot into defence, while Don Pyke returned for his first game since damaging ankle ligaments in Round 4, also against Geelong.
Pyke had shown strong form in three games at Claremont and was assigned to Cats midfielder Garry Hocking, restricting him to just 16 disposals. Mark Hepburn was also included, while Ryan Turnbull was a late inclusion for Ashley McIntosh who was originally named, but ultimately hadn’t recovered from a thigh strain.
Turnbull was called up for his first game since the Round 7 loss to Fitzroy as a defensive option, with Geelong possessing the likes of Bill Brownless and Steven Handley up forward, along with Stoneham and Ablett.
Sean Simpson and Andrew Rogers made way for the Cats who came into the contest on the back of defeating a hapless Richmond side by 82 points.
The Eagles first win of the afternoon came at the coin toss when John Worsfold guessed correctly and gave the visitors first use of a strong wind advantage.
West Coast couldn’t maximise early, but when Peter Sumich goaled at the 18 minute mark, the Eagles slammed on five quick goals to take a 30 point lead into quarter time.
With a lead established, the Eagles went into shutdown mode as they denied the Cats from getting the ball forward. West Coast nullified the Cats turn with the wind, kicking two goals to three to still hold a 25 point half-time lead.
The two sides traded goals in the third term and at 30 points, the Cats were still within striking distance with a quarter to play.
Former Eagle Geoff Miles then threatened to the swing the game in the final term against his former club, when he booted three goals in quick succession to reduce the Eagles lead to just 19 points. However, the Eagles steadied and held on for a vital win that retained their spot in fourth position. The loss though put a huge dent to the Cats top two hopes.
The Magpies took over top spot after they claimed their sixth win in a row over Essendon. The Bombers, looking to break into the top six, stuck with Collingwood for the majority of the night but were overrun in the final term. Geelong dropped to second and were joined on points by Footscray who easily accounted for the Swans.
The Saints and Blues both had important wins that went a long way to establishing their finals spots. The Saints smashed fellow contenders Hawthorn to the tune of 75 points. In a highly anticipated game featuring the two key full forwards of the year, the game became a flop for both Dunstall and the Hawks. While Lockett booted six at his end, Dunstall was held goalless, meaning the Saints stayed in fifth spot.
The Blues meanwhile had to work hard to get over the top of North Melbourne, but came away with a seven point victory, that coupled with losses to Hawthorn and Essendon, seemed to suggest that the final six was set. Fitzroy’s faint finals hopes were also extinguished when they were thumped in Adelaide by 85 points.
Eagles coach Mick Malthouse though denied that his side had done enough to make a third straight finals campaign. “It’s only Round 19. When Round 24 is concluded and we find ourselves in the top six, then we can start looking at meeting Geelong again.”
For West Coast, it was a number of key Eagles from 1991 who stepped up with the game on the line. Craig Turley turned back the clock to produce one of his best performances of the season to pick up 27 disposals and kick two goals, while Dean Kemp was stellar in a best on ground effort.
Kemp kick-started the Eagles first quarter drive, gathering 10 disposals opposed to Geelong captain Mark Bairstow, and ended with 35 for the day. The Eagles midfield proved totally dominant.
Chris Mainwaring and Peter Matera had the better of Peter Riccardi and Spiro Malakellis with Tony Evans also prominent in a midfield role. The Eagles were well served by ruckman Paul Harding who was too good for John Barnes who rucked in the absence of Damian Bourke.
While the Eagles midfield were strong in attack, several of Malthouse’s defensive moves were also critical. As well as Don Pyke’s nullifying role on Garry Hocking in his return to AFL football, Dwayne Lamb shut out Robert Scott and Turley had the better of Paul Couch. Gary Ablett tormented the Eagles in a best on ground performance when the two sides met in Round 4, but was barely sighted as he was kept in check by John Worsfold.
The win restored external belief that West Coast could still challenge for the premiership and with games to come against Brisbane, Richmond and Fitzroy in the coming three weeks, a top two finish and the double chance seemed possible once again for the Eagles.
The only downside from the match was the two game suspension handed to firebrand centre half forward Karl Langdon. Langdon was charged on trial-by-video for striking Ken Hinkley in what proved a cruel blow.
Langdon had been under an injury cloud all week after sitting out the second half of the St.Kilda game with a hamstring and proved his fitness late to be one of the Eagles’ best against Geelong. Langdon was now set to miss home games against the Bears and Tigers in the coming weeks.
Match Details Saturday 25 July 1992
West Coast 7.2 9.4 13.5 15.6 (96)
Geelong 2.2 5.3 8.5 12.5 (77)
Kardinia Park Attendance: 25,585
Best: WCE D Kemp, C Mainwaring, D Pyke, D Lamb, C Turley, P Matera, K Langdon, J Worsfold
GEE K Hinkley, B Stoneham, M Bairstow, P Couch, G Miles
Goals: WCE K Langdon, P Sumich 3, C Turley, D Pyke, P Wilson 2, C Lewis, P Harding, M Clape.
GEE G Miles 5, B Brownless 3, G Hocking, P Riccardi, B Stoneham, G Ablett.
Brownlow: 3. D.Kemp (WCE)
2. K.Hinkley (GEE)
1. C.Mainwaring (WCE)