In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
West Coast were made to work harder than expected against the Tigers, but eventually prevailed with a 20 point win at Subiaco.
The Eagles were hot favourites against lowly Richmond who had arrived in Perth on the back of a 110 point loss to Adelaide the previous week. That loss had followed 75 and 82 point defeats in the previous fortnight to Melbourne and Geelong, with scrutiny intensifying over veteran coach Allan Jeans' position at the club.
On the other hand, West Coast entered the clash after a thumping 131 point win over Brisbane, which had made it five wins from their previous six games. Despite the massive victory, the Eagles still made four changes, although two were forced on the morning of the game.
Guy McKenna and Brett Heady both returned to the senior line up after lengthy stints on the sidelines. The Eagles had been cautious with the two players, in particularly Heady who had suffered four hamstring injuries this season.
The Eagles match committee had been blessed for options for the first time in the year, with only three players listed as unavailable. Ruckman Laurie Keene and rookie Daniel Metropolis were both recovering from knee injuries, while centre half forward Karl Langdon was serving the second week of a two game suspension.
Chris Lewis and Dean Laidley were the two players to make way for McKenna and Heady, with Lewis dropped to Claremont for the first time in his six year AFL career. Lewis paid the price for an inconsistent month which culminated in a poor performance against the Bears, despite the ease of the Eagles win. Lewis started on the bench, but despite playing three quarters, could muster just 10 disposals and no goals.
Tony Evans and Dwayne Lamb then pulled out on the morning of the game, allowing David Hart and Scott Watters to return to the side. The Eagles opted against bringing in their third emergency in David Hynes with blustery conditions tipped for the game.
Malthouse might have wished for Hynes out on the ground though as the Eagles struggled to find a matchwinner at centre half forward. Mark Hepburn started but was quickly dragged with Peter Sumich pushed up the ground from full forward.
Ashley McIntosh also spent time there, before Glen Jakovich was able to provide the option West Coast were craving after half time. Jakovich finished the game with 12 disposals, seven marks and two goals after being well beaten at the opposite end of the ground by former teammate Stevan Jackson.
Jackson - who crossed to Richmond ahead of the 1992 season - was one of the most influential players on the ground in the first half. The centre half forward finished the game with 20 disposals and four marks but couldn’t maximise in front of goal, kicking 1.3. Another former Eagle though had far greater impact on the scoreboard as Todd Breman kicked five goals to be the Tigers main forward source.
With broadcaster Channel 7 in the midst of showing the Barcelona Olympics, the Eagles/Tigers game began at the peculiar time of 11am Perth time to avoid a clash. The Tigers got first use of a strong wind and burst out of the blocks with the opening two goals. Richmond had been able to welcome back a number of senior players including captain Dale Weightman, midfielder Craig Lambert – who was playing game 100 – as well as Stuart Edwards and Anthony Banik.
Richmond were presenting as a much tricker proposition than the previous three weeks had promised, but by quarter time West Coast had reeled the Tigers in.
The Eagles reduced the deficit at the first change to just two points, before holding the Tigers scoreless in the second term. West Coast managed 3.5 with the wind to take a 21 point lead into the main break.
Chris Mainwaring had been the star for West Coast in the opening half with 17 disposals on the wing. Craig Turley had 12 and Guy McKenna enjoyed a strong return to gather 11 on half-back. Peter Sumich had booted three of the Eagles six goals to half-time and had the perfect foil in Heady who was proving too much for Tony Free.
Scott Watters also enjoyed a solid start after being a late inclusion, opposed to Weightman. Watters picked up 10 disposals, with Weightman managing just three handballs.
Craig Lambert was prolific for Richmond with David Hart unable to contain the centurion. Lambert had 15 possessions in the first half and had strong support from Matthew Knights, Alistair Scott and Jackson up forward.
The Tigers ended their scoring drought early in the third term with the wind once again behind their backs, but the Eagles were able to match them for the quarter booting four goals to the Tigers five.
When West Coast booted the first two goals of the final term to stretch their lead to 26 points, it seemed as though Richmond’s resistance had been broken and it was how far for the Eagles.
However, the Tigers roared back into the contest as they got their running game going into the wind. Richmond finished the term with double the possessions than West Coast (69-34) and had 22 handballs to just four.
Richmond booted four goals in succession to reduce the Eagles lead to just two points midway through the quarter, with Breman booted two of his five for the game during the run. Brian Leys became a big factor for Richmond around the ground with 11 last quarter disposals while Wayne Campbell, Knights and Lambert all getting plenty of the ball.
West Coast eventually steadied and when John Worsfold goaled in the dying minutes, the Eagles had gritted out the hard fought win.
For Malthouse, the win wasn’t pretty, but at this stage of the season, the four points were all that mattered. “We didn’t win convincingly, but we won and that’s the main thing. And we’ve come off two significant wins and I think sometimes its very hard to keep players up.”
Malthouse acknowledged the scrappy effort by his players, with the Eagles lacking four-quarter performers. Mainwaring faded after his strong first half, while Peter Matera and Dean Kemp both struggled to get into the game. The Eagles also finished the game with fresh injury concerns.
Peter Wilson dislocated a shoulder in the opening quarter, which was likely to rule him out for the remainder of home and away season. Mitchell White suffered knee ligament damage shortly after half-time which was also expected to keep him out for the next month.
Despite the lacklustre win, West Coast found themselves in the coveted top three at the end of the round, courtesy of favourable results. Collingwood lost their second straight game when they lost a low scoring clash with Hawthorn. Versatile forward Paul Hudson booted six majors to be the difference as the Hawks recorded a 19 point win.
The Magpies had been top of the table and flag favourites a fortnight earlier, but now found themselves out of the top three as Geelong reclaimed top spot. The Cats easily accounted for Fitzroy to leapfrog the Bulldogs (who had the bye) by percentage. The Blues and Saints met in a crucial game at the bottom of the top six, with Carlton seemingly assuring themselves of a finals finish with a 35 point victory. The Saints on the other hand were now dangling on the edge of the top six, just four points ahead of the surging Hawks.
While West Coast continued to shorten in the eyes of the punting public for the flag, Richmond’s fighting performance was the perfect response to an inflammatory article written by former Demons player Gerard Healy.
Healy suggested the Tigers had been in discussions with his former side, Melbourne, to merge ahead of the 1993 season. Healy believed the announcement was expected to be made in the coming days, with both clubs having suffered from financial difficulties since the late 1980’s, describing their financial positions as derelict.
Richmond’s general manager, Cameron Schwab, lambasted Healy for his article, labelling it “irresponsible journalism”.
“It is absolutely untrue. Gerard Healy has not made any attempt to contact any official of the Richmond Football Club and therefore this article is based on rumour and innuendo which we refute in the strongest of possible terms.”
Tigers chairman Pat Stone also expressed disappointment in the article, stating that “these articles cause considerable distress amongst members and external parties”. Richmond demanded Healy issue an apology, with current sponsor TAC Insurance supposedly considering their commitment to the Tigers.
“No representative of the Richmond Football Club has discussed officially or unofficially with any official of the Melbourne Football Club and the possibility of merging in the past five years”, continued Schwab. His compatriot at Melbourne, Ian Ridley, confirmed that there had been no discussions, dismissing the claims as “simply not true”.
Match Details Sunday 9 August 1992
West Coast 3.2 6.7 10.11 15.14 (104)
Richmond 3.4 3.4 8.9 12.12 (84)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 23,245
Best: WCE B Heady, C Mainwaring, S Watters, P Harding, G Jakovich
RIC C Lambert, M Knights, W Campbell, S Jackson, J Hogg, B Leys
Goals: WCE P Sumich 5, B Heady 4, G Jakovich 2, A McIntosh, P Matera, D Kemp, J Worsfold.
RIC T Breman 5, J Hogg, T Menegola 2, S Jackson, S Maxfield, C Naish.
Brownlow: 3. G.Jakovich (WCE)
2. T.Breman (RIC)
1. C.Mainwaring (WCE)