In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
The Eagles made it eight wins in nine matches when they overcame a dogged Lions outfit by 30 points.
Fitzroy threw everything they had at West Coast for three quarters, but a three goal burst just before three quarter time broke the spirit of the Lions, with the Eagles able to coast in the final term. Only an inaccurate performance in front of goal in the last quarter, where West Coast kicked 2.11, prevented the margin from stretching out further.
However the Eagles were left with concerns over full-forward Peter Sumich, after the spearhead limped off early in the second term with a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
However, full-forward Peter Sumich provided the lowlight for West Coast when he limped off early in the 2nd quarter. Sumich had bagged three of the Eagles first five goals for the night, but succumbed to another hamstring injury, having being plagued through much of the first half of the season.
A week after having an almost clean bill of health, the Eagles were suddenly beset by injury problems again. Mitchell White and Peter Wilson had been injured in the previous weeks win over Richmond and weren’t expected to feature again in the home-and-away season. They were joined by Paul Peos and Dean Irving who were injured playing at their respective WAFL clubs.
Tony Evans returned after a week on the sidelines, while Karl Langdon came back in after a two week suspension. Dwayne Lamb was the other inclusion, replacing Scott Watters who was unlucky to miss out after a strong effort against Richmond.
The Eagles opted against bringing back Chris Lewis, who was left to play at Claremont for a second week.
The Lions also made a host of changes, although the majority of them were unforced. The Lions had been challenging for a finals spot earlier in the season, but arrived in Perth on the back of five consecutive losses.
As a result, coach Robert Shaw had swung the axe. Full-forward Richard Osborne was the biggest casualty with the former captain unable to recapture his best form since breaking a cheekbone in a clash with John Worsfold in the State-of-Origin.
Others to make way were David O’Connell, Matthew Armstrong and Matthew Dundas, while midfielder Ross Lyon had his season ended prematurely when he broke an arm the week before in Fitzroy’s loss to Geelong.
Darren Whieldon came into the line up as the replacement for Osborne, with Shaw bringing in a batch of youngsters in an attempt to revive the Lions faltering season.
Despite the recent form slump, the Lions took confidence into the game knowing they had beaten the Eagles in the past two meetings. Fitzroy had claimed the points in their meeting earlier in the season in North Hobart, while they caused an upset in the final round of 1991 when they beat the top of the table Eagles.
The Lions had also been the last team to beat West Coast at the WACA – albeit three years earlier.
Eagles coach Mick Malthouse had been quick to dismiss the Lions as a bogy team in the lead up to the game, and in the early stages, West Coast had the upper hand.
Sumich was proving too strong for Alastair Lynch, Michael Brennan was controlling things down back and Tony Evans was racking up plenty of the ball on his return. Chris Mainwaring and Peter Matera were both giving plenty of drive from the wings, although Matera was being matched by Jason Baldwin of the Lions.
West Coast had a 14 point lead at quarter time and extended soon after the first break, but the momentum of the game shifted on Sumich’s injury. The Eagles lost their way up forward, while Paul Roos was switched from defence to attack and took control of the game. Baldwin got on top of Matera to have nine disposals for the term and found support in Michael Gale and Brendan McCormick through the middle.
Despite this, the Eagles were able to stretch their lead to 20 points at the major break but the Lions got their reward in the third term. The visitors closed to within four points as the quarter moved into time-on as coach Mick Malthouse was forced to shuffle his side.
Guy McKenna and Michael Brennan were swung forward, Ashley McIntosh was moved to full-back while Chris Waterman was assigned the task of containing Paul Roos. Roos was continuing his form streak against the Eagles, which had seen him poll votes against West Coast in the previous four meetings between the sides.
Fitzroy continued to trouble West Coast through the midfield, but the Eagles swung the momentum again with a three goal burst right before three quarter time. Glen Jakovich, Karl Langdon and Don Pyke with West Coast taking a 23 point lead into the final change.
Malthouse sprinted out to his players at three quarter time, clearly elated with the late response from his charges. “I thought we were in real trouble midway through that [third] quarter.”
“We lost Sumich and we lost a bit of momentum and players who hadn’t played a lot of footy were starting to feel the pinch a bit. In many respects it was one of the best quarters we’ve played all year because there were blokes running on empty.”
The Eagles then had the game back on their terms in the final term as the Lions fell away. Fitzroy coach Robert Shaw couldn’t fault his players, but admitted they couldn’t maintain it for the full four quarters. “We played like we know we can for 2 and a half quarters.”
Chris Mainwaring led the Eagles’ ball winners with 30 disposals, while Dean Kemp and Dwayne Lamb had 25 apiece. Tony Evans collected 23 to go with two goals, while Don Pyke managed three from the midfield.
Paul Roos had 26 disposals and booted three goals from half forward and was clearly best on ground. Jason Baldwin had 23 opposed to Matera, while Brett Stephens had 25.
The win saw the Eagles hit the top of the ladder briefly, with the game played on the Friday night. By the end of the round West Coast sat in 2nd position two points behind the Cats. Geelong thrashed on Brisbane, but Footscray stumbled in a massive way when they were thrashed by Carlton to the tune of 82 points. The Bulldogs sat in third ahead of the Blues who climbed up to fourth on the back of their percentage boosting win.
The Magpies held on to defeat a fast-finishing North Melbourne to end their two game losing streak but slipped down to fifth. The Blues and Magpies were set to meet the following week in a game that could have massive ramifications on both teams’ finals hopes. After five weeks sitting in seventh spot, the Hawks finally broke into the top six after they thrashed the Tigers. The Saints were the ones to make way when they fell to Adelaide at Football Park by 16 points.
Ahead of their clash with Footscray, West Coast were sitting in prime position for the double chance. Despite still having two games of the regular season remaining, for Malthouse the finals were starting now. “We play virtually finals football from here on in. It will be a very big game for us against Footscray next week. They’re an improved side, they’ve got good form behind them and they’ve got a good place on the ladder.”
“We’ll be fighting for a place in the top two and a double chance.”
Match Details Friday 14 August 1992
West Coast 4.5 7.10 12.11 14.22 (106)
Fitzroy 2.3 4.8 8.12 10.16 (76)
W.A.C.A Attendance: 23,016
Best: WCE T Evans, D Kemp, C Mainwaring, A McIntosh, M Brennan, D Pyke, C Turley, K Langdon
FITZ P Roos, A Lynch, J Baldwin, B Stephens, P Broderick, J Guard, D Flemming
Goals: WCE P Sumich, D Pyke 3, T Evans, C Waterman 2, K Langdon, M Brennan, G McKenna, G Jakovich.
FITZ D Whieldon, P Roos 3, P Abbott, D Fleming, M Gale, B McCormack.
Brownlow: 3. P.Roos (FITZ)
2. T.Evans (WCE)
1. A.McIntosh (WCE)