In the 25th anniversary of West Coast's first premiership, the Eagle Eye recounts the Eagles historic 1992 season.
The Eagles mid-season four game winning streak came to an end when they were pipped by the Magpies at Subiaco.
West Coast led by 31 points late in the third quarter, but the Magpies stormed home in the final quarter to kick the winning point as the final siren sounded.
The narrow loss dropped the Eagles from third to sixth, allowing the Saints, Magpies and Blues to all jump above them in a congested top six. West Coast held their spot inside the top six courtesy of a superior match ratio with reigning premiers Hawthorn and surprise-packet Fitzroy sitting just beneath them.
The Eagles were made to pay for their lack of a recognised ruckman with Damian Monkhorst the dominant figure in the game. Monkhorst amassed 34 hit-outs to provide the Collingwood midfield with first use out of the centre, with Mick Malthouse trying several players in an attempt to nullify Monkhorst’s influence.
David Hynes, Glen Jakovich, Karl Langdon and Ashley McIntosh all spent time in the ruck but were outpointed by Monkhorst who also had 22 disposals and nine marks.
The Eagles had been badly exposed by Hawthorn ruckman Paul Dear in the 1991 Grand Final, and had looked to strengthen their ruck complement in the off-season with the addition of Saints ruck Paul Harding and drafting Jason Ball.
However, Harding had failed to fire since crossing to the Eagles, out of favour since Round 5. With Dean Irving and Jason Ball sidelined with injury the Eagles had strung their best form of the season in recent weeks with makeshift options Glen Jakovich and David Hynes.
But with Jakovich limping off early with an ankle problem, the Eagles were left to review their ruck selection, particularly with Harding running around for East Fremantle. A fortnight earlier Harding been one of WA’s best players in their state-of-origin loss to Victoria but remained relegated to the WAFL.
The thrilling finished seemed unlikely for much of the first half, as the home side handled the treacherous conditions better. A deluge of rain hit Subiaco Oval during the curtain raiser, rendering certain areas on the ground virtual swimming pools.
Neither side could score in the opening 15 minutes, but the Eagles kicked four goals to one to finish the term. Peter Wilson soccered the opening goal from the spillage of a pack in the goal square, before Brett Heady kicked two in succession on his return from injury.
Heady was one of two inclusions for the Eagles, returning from a three week absence following another recurrence of a hamstring injury. Peter Matera was the other inclusion, surprising West Coast with a speedy recovery from a calf strain suffered the previous week at training. Robbie West and Troy Ugle made way, but while Matera would be one of the Eagles’ best, the news wasn’t as good for Heady.
After being too mobile for Collingwood defender Mick Gayfer, Heady suffered another hamstring shortly after half-time, joining Jakovich on the bench.
Brad Rowe booted the Magpies only goal of the opening term, but it was more of the same for West Coast in the second. The Eagles couldn’t capitalise early on their inside-50 dominance, but Dean Kemp stretched the home sides lead after receiving a 50m penalty.
The Magpies defence though was on top of the Eagles forwards. Peter Wilson and Chris Lewis were shut out of the game after quarter time, with Leigh Matthews moving Alan Richardson and Gavin Crosisca onto the duo. Peter Sumich was given nothing from Gary Pert, but got a gift goal to extend West Coast’s lead beyond five goals.
Collingwood stemmed the Eagles momentum towards the back end of the quarter, with Craig Starcevich booting the Magpies second goal of the game. Graeme Wright made it consecutive goals after the major break, but West Coast managed two quick goals.
Peter Sumich broke free from Gary Pert for the his second goal of the afternoon and Mitchell White was awarded a 50m penalty following a late charge from Craig Kelly in a marking contest. White made it an equal game-high lead of 31 points but with no fit players left on the bench, the Eagles players began to tire in the Subiaco sludge.
Conversely, many of the key Collingwood midfielders came into the game. Tony Shaw, Tony Francis, Mick McGuane, Scott Russell and Paul Williams revelled in the conditions, which in contrast were diminishing the Eagles running strength. The game was reduced to a slog and with Monkhorst dominating the stoppages, the Magpies dragged themselves back into the game.
As three quarter time neared, Brad Rowe slipped Scott Watters to goal twice, reducing the Eagles lead to 17 points. The Magpies kept coming in the final term as West Coast became wasteful. The Eagles could manage just five behinds and kicked 4.14 after quarter time.
Gavin Brown and Mick McGuane goaled early for the Magpies before a tense stalemate ensued. McGuane was one of the best players on the ground, but could have had a day out if not for inaccurate kicking on goal. The centreman finished with 1.6 for the afternoon from 30 disposals opposed to Dean Kemp through the middle of the ground.
As the quarter ticked down the two sides traded behinds, but West Coast still held a six point lead with just over a minute remaining. Paul Williams was able to level the scores after taking a one-handed mark in the goal square.
With seven seconds remaining, Damien Monkhorst had one final say in the match. His 34th hit-out for the game was a long smash forward, which was further knocked on by Gavin Brown. Brad Rowe gathered the ball, handpassed to Paul Williams, who in turn found Troy Lehmann on the overlap. His scrappy kick was enough to register a point, and the Magpies had stolen a famous victory.
Leigh Matthews couldn’t contain his excitement for his side, who were getting used to close finishes. The one point win over West Coast followed a one point loss to St.Kilda, a three point defeat to Fitzroy and a five point win over Adelaide in the preceding three weeks.
“It’s almost a bonus four points. When you play the Eagles in Perth you always hope you can win, but you can never really be confident.” The win would be crucial for Collingwood’s hopes of a finals berth, with a blockbuster clash against the ladder-topping Footscray the following week.
The one sour note for Collingwood was a serious knee injury to defender Craig Kelly during the third term. As he battled one-on-one with Karl Langdon, Langdon fell across his leg, with Kelly later requiring a knee reconstruction for a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Kelly would also receive a suspension for his strike on Mitchell White to add insult to injury, but with the veteran centre half back set to miss 12 months, it mattered little.
For Mick Malthouse, the loss was hard to fathom, labelling it one of the most painful losses he could recall. “I can’t believe we just didn’t hold the lead. Once Collingwood got a sniff we were always going to be on the back foot.”
Despite the Eagles reaching a 31 point lead during the third term, Malthouse identified the closing stages of the second term as the turning point in the match, as Collingwood managed four shots on goal and grabbed hold of the midfield ascendancy.
Malthouse was also baffled by the continual leg problems being suffered by half-forward Brett Heady. Heady was set to miss a number of games, with a fourth hamstring injury for the year. “I’ve got no idea why it keeps happening” Malthouse said. “Maybe 1992 is not his year.”
The loss left West Coast sitting precariously in 6th spot on the ladder, with a crunch rematch to come against their 1991 Grand Final nemesis. The Hawks had yet to reach their premiership form in 1992, but after thrashing fellow finals aspirants Fitzroy by 56 points they now sat one spot behind the Eagles and were looking to force their way into the finals positions.
Match Details Sunday 14 June 1992
Collingwood 1.2 2.6 5.10 8.15 (63)
West Coast 4.0 6.4 8.9 8.14 (62)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 32,622
Best: COLL D Monkhorst, M McGuane, B Rowe, T Shaw, C Kelly, T Lehmann, G Brown
WCE D Kemp, C Mainwaring, C Turley, D Laidley, P Matera
Goals: COLL B Rowe 3, M McGuane, G Brown, G Wright, P Williams, C Starcevich.
WCE P Sumich, B Heady 2, C Turley, D Kemp, M White, P Wilson.
Brownlow: 3. D.Monkhorst (COLL)
2. M.McGuane (COLL)