Malthouse rocket inspires Eagles

Can anyone remember what Mick Malthouse said to the West Coast players at quarter-time of the round 10 clash with the Western Bulldogs at the WACA Ground in 1998?

Probably not. And fair enough. It was May 29, 1998 and almost 22 years ago. About a third of the current Eagles playing list were not even born.

It is hard enough to remember which hugely popular TV series aired for the last time that month, who was the WA Premier at the time, who won the 1998 Melbourne Cup, which massive world-wide company was launched, and what controversy rocked the United States.

But a few well-chosen words from Malthouse on a Friday night at the WACA? Unlikely.

We can handle the other five questions. In order, the answers are Seinfeld, Richard Court, Jezabeel, Google and the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal.

But the best we can do with Malthouse’s quarter-time address was that it probably included one of two profanities, and it was unbelievably inspiring.

Whatever, it preceded the biggest comeback win from a deficit at quarter-time, half-time or three-quarter time in club history, and earns headline status as the Coronavirus pandemic flashback series this week looks back at 33 years of round 10.

As Malthouse marched out to the quarter-time huddle on one of the more bizarre nights in club history the WACA Ground scoreboard showed the Eagles 0.4 (4) to the Dogs 8.4 (52).

That they were behind wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Dogs were sitting top of the ladder at the time with an 8-1 record and the Eagles, coming off an excellent win over Geelong at Kardinia Park in John Worsfold’s 200th game, were seventh at 4-5. But 48 points down? Especially against his former club? Mick wasn’t going to be happy.


Yet by halftime the scoreboard showed the Eagles 8.6 (54) to the Dogs 8.5 (53).

It was a staggering turnaround and a staggering game of football. And it’s worth a look on U-Tube.

In perfect conditions the Dogs owned the football in the first quarter and it was 5.2 to nil when Michael Braun opened the Eagles account with a behind on the run from half forward.

When the visitors kicked the next two goals Tim Watson said in commentary on Channel 7 “this is one of the most precise quarters of football I’ve ever seen” just before Chris Grant kicked his second and the Dogs’ eighth.

The TV replay didn’t show the quarter-time break but whatever was said by 44-year-old Malthouse in his 341st AFL game as coach and his 206th in charge of the Eagles had an immediate impact on his side.

Ben Cousins goaled on his left inside 60 seconds and Bruce McAvaney, noting the loud reaction from a WACA Ground crowd of 28,193, said “it’s like they’ve won their third premiership”.

Guy McKenna, running off half back, added their second before Chad Morrison kicked the next two and Fraser Gehrig two of his own. “It’s like they’ve changed jumpers,” said McAvaney.

Jason Ball, whose move from fullback into the ruck was critical in the second term, marked strongly on the edge of the goal square for the Eagles’ seventh, and then Morrison out-marked Sedat Sir in the pocket and kicked truly.

“Scores are level … unbelievable,” said McAvaney. “What a footy club.”

Incredibly, after the Dogs ‘won’ the first quarter 52-4 the Eagles ‘won’ the second 50-1.

A rushed behind right on the halftime siren put the Eagles in front at the long break, and when Mitchell White and Paul Symmons got the first two goals of the third term the Eagles had kicked 11 in a row and led by 22.

The Dogs steadied with Paul Hudson’s third and fourth before one from a 21-year-old Brad Johnson, cut the margin to three. But the Eagles replied. Symmons kicked his third for the quarter and 18-year-old Phillip Read accepted a brilliant long handpass from Braun and kicked his second AFL goal.

Hudson got his fifth right on three-quarter time to make it 11 points to the Eagles before McAvaney noted that the Dogs had trailed at the last change in Rounds 6-7-9 and won each time.

The Eagles missed several opportunities early in the last and McAvaney commented “they’re keeping the Dogs in this” but Gehrig snaffled a loose ball at the back of a pack in the goal square for the all-important first goal of the fourth quarter.

Danny Southern, thrown forward by Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace, found the big sticks from long range before Mitchell White hit the post from close range. “He’s kicked 1.6,” said McAvaney, although the final stats had him for 1.5.

But after Drew Banfield crumbed one beautifully at full forward and a brilliant Dean Kemp handball gave Morrison his fourth on the goal line McAvaney declared “they’re home”. And they were, taking the points 16.17 (113) to 15.10 (100).

Malthouse, asked 14 years later by The West Australian to nominate his favorite Eagles game as coach, said “obviously” he cherished the 1992-94 flags but singled out the record-breaking comeback of round 10, 1998.

“It was one of the most remarkable games. To make it even more remarkable, the goal umpire for that match was in his first game and because they don't change ends until half-time, he pulled out the flags for 16 goals in the first half while his colleague didn't see one,” Malthouse recounted.

“At quarter time, you could have just about turned your toes up because they were a very good side and preliminary finalists that year. But I still remember the buzz among the players and thinking to myself, "I reckon we've still got a chance of clawing our way back into the game here. If we can just dig in and be, say, five down instead of eight down at half-time, we might be able to wear them down. Then all of a sudden at half-time we were eight each.

“Michael Braun was only 20 and in just his 14th senior game and got three Brownlow Medal votes for his 23 possessions. I remember Fraser Gehrig kicking three goals and Chad Morrison kicking four.

“I also remember outside the gate as I was leaving the ground after the game bumping into some people who had come up from Albany. The father had brought up his young son to watch the game. The family had hardly ever been to a game and would have seen a remarkable one in West Coast's history.”

Remarkable indeed. Braun, who was the victors’ leading ball-winner, did pick up his first Brownlow votes while Symmons earned one. Oddly, two votes went to Scott West, the Dogs’ leading possession-winner with 28 even though Hudson looked to be clearly his side’s best.

And as much as dual premiership star Tony Evans hadn’t counted on it being his last game, it was a special way to go out. The 28-year-old never played at AFL level again after he limped off in the second half of his 108th game.

The record books list the 48-point quarter-time deficit from this crazy match as the biggest deficit converted into a win by the Eagles and the equal fourth-biggest in AFL history.

Heading this list was a 58-point Essendon turnaround against North Melbourne in 2001 when Matthew Lloyd kicked nine goals, St Kilda’s 55-point turnaround against Hawthorn in 1927, and, oddly, Hawthorns 51-point turnaround against St Kilda in 1999. 

Equal with the West Coast recovery was a Richmond effort against Sydney in 1982.

The biggest half-time and three-quarter deficit that West Coast have overcome to win were in the same game against Geelong at Kardinia Park in 2006. Oddly, that, too, was a round 10 game. But as they say in the classics … more about that later.

Round 10 at a glance

Over 33 years the Eagles have an aggregate 16-17 win/loss record in round 10.

They’ve never played Fremantle, Melbourne or the now defunct Fitzroy in round 10, and have had multiple wins against Adelaide (3-0), Sydney (2-0), Hawthorn (2-1), and are 1-0 against Port Adelaide, Geelong, Gold Coast and Western Bulldogs. They have an even split against Brisbane (1-1) and StKilda (1-1) and a less flattering record against Carlton (0-4), Collingwood (1-3), North Melbourne (1-3), Richmond (1-2), Essendon (0-1) and GWS (0-1).

Eleven of the 16 Round 10 wins have come in Perth – they were 8-4 at Subiaco and 3-0 at the WACA.

They’ve had a poor 3-11 round 10 record in Victoria, going 0-5 at the MCG, 1-4 at Docklands, 0-2 at Princes Park, 1-0 at Waverley and 1-0 at Kardinia Park. They went 0-1 in Hobart, 0-1 at the Gabba and 1-0 at Adelaide Oval.