Football sage Malcolm Blight reckoned victory in the 2006 preliminary final against Adelaide sat only behind the club’s two premiership triumphs.
And he was in a pretty good position to make that assessment. On Grand Final day in 1992 and 1994 he was in the Geelong coaches box, hemorrhaging as West Coast triumphed.
This time it was from a more comfortable perch in the Channel 10 commentary booth that he witnessed his old tormentor inflicting some pain on another of the clubs he had coached, Adelaide.
And in terms of victories he rated it the third most significant in the then 20-year existence of the West Coast Eagles. There was a very good reason for such an assessment.
Half-time at AAMI Stadium on September 23 and only the true believers would have maintained faith that the Eagles could find a way out of a serious predicament.
It wasn’t so much that the Eagles trailed by 22 points, or even the fact that the first half had yielded just two goals. It was more about the way the minor premier was playing.
The Eagles struggled to get their running game into vogue. Couldn’t find time or space, its gun players were struggling to have an impact against a dour Adelaide outfit.
But just as the case had been so often during the season, West Coast regrouped, found a way to reverse the trend of the game and then surged with an inspired second half which saw it earn a second successive Grand Final appearance.
It is one of the intriguing quirks of sport, especially at the elite level, that a team can create an edge over another, particularly when both are at the top of their field. Such was the case with West Coast and Adelaide.
The Eagles went across to Adelaide having won five of their previous six matches, the most recent an 82-point thumping at Subiaco Oval. The run of success against the Crows had also included two victories on the Crows home turf.
So the venue held no fears; neither did the opposition, although there was obviously a healthy respect for the team that finished second after the qualifying rounds.
And at the long break the West Coast players knew they could do more. “Dig Deep” had been one of the club’s catch cries and veteran Michael Braun urged his teammates to live up to it in the second half.
The enthusiasm bubbled. To look in the eyes of each of the players, you could almost touch the resolve and you just knew they were ready to throw down the challenge.
It came. Emphatically. You could see it almost immediately.
The urgency with which the players attacked the ball was obvious. And the goals came. Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr combined with Dean Cox to dominate the stoppages. There efforts were simply mesmerising, dazzling with sheer will and skill.
Adam Hunter continued to shine up forward, with assistance coming from Quinten Lynch.
Braun was outstanding on a wing, shutting down the dangerous Andrew McLeod, Adam Selwood stuck to his task against Brett Burton, the two Crows stars, who had returned from long injury lay-offs, were effectively shut down.
Andrew Embley produced a second-up gem – most would argue this was more impressive than his Norm Smith Medal performance a week later – and Ashley Hansen took 11 marks up forward to provide vitality across half-forward.
By three-quarter time the margin had been cut to just eight points. It took only seven or eight minutes of the final stanza for the Eagles to hit the front for the first time. Soon it was out to three goals and victory appeared assured.
As it transpired that proved to be the case, the Crows never wresting back the ascendancy. But it was far from a coast to the line.
Adelaide nudged to within four points with 15 seconds on the clock and Simon Goodwin had the ball and was charging forward at the subsequent bounce. Then the shrill of the umpire’s whistle stopped him in his tracks.
Tyson Edwards had infringed against Tyson Stenglein in the centre square. He kicked it to his good mate, Chad Fletcher at half-forward, who in turn relayed it to Hansen. The flame haired forward was sizing up the goals when the siren reverberated around the stadium.
West Coast had won. Just to make sure, Hansen went back and slotted it through to bump the margin out to 10 points. And West Coast was off to the MCG again.
2006 Preliminary Final
Adelaide v West Coast Eagles
West Coast Eagles 0.4 2.7 6.12 11.19 85
Adelaide 3.3 6.5 8.8 11.9 75
GOALS – West Coast Eagles: Hunter 4; Embley 2; Kerr, Cousins, Lynch, Butler, Hansen.
Adelaide: Bock 3; Burton, Bode 2; Welsh, Edwards, McLeod, Clarke.
BEST – West Coast Eagles: Embley, Hunter, Cousins, Kerr, Judd, Cox, Braun, Selwood.
Crowd: 50,514 at AAMI Stadium
Club Champion Votes – 25: Chris Judd, Ben Cousins, Daniel Kerr; 24: Dean Cox, Adam Hunter; 20: Andrew Embley; 19: Michael Braun, Ashley Hasnsen; 17: Brett Jones; 16: Tyson Stenglein, Darren Glass, Sam Butler; 15: Beau Waters; 14: Quinten Lynch; 12: Drew Banfield, Rowan Jones, Adam Selwood; 10: Jaymie Graham; 6: Chad Fletcher; 5: Daniel Chick, Steven Armstrong; 3: Mark Seaby.