Despite being 27 years ago, Karl Langdon’s memories of West Coast’s first AFL premiership are vivid.
The flamboyant half-forward can recall the tension in Victoria as the Eagles looked to secure their first flag in the AFL era in 1992.
“They used to call us the ‘Weagles’ and I don’t think it was said as a term of endearment,” he told AFLPlayers.com.au ahead of Friday night’s semi-final between West Coast and Geelong at the MCG.
The hostility in Victoria began the day before the game at the Grand Final Parade and continued until after the final siren.
Sitting in the open-back of a car at the parade, a Geelong fan called out to Langdon, taking his baby’s pink dummy out of their mouth and passing it over the fence to Langdon saying, ‘Here, suck on this’.
The provocative nature of the bleach-blond Langdon meant he did exactly that, creating a big stir among the pro-Geelong crowd.
After the premiership had been won, Langdon gave the infamous pink dummy to Hey Hey it’s Saturday host Daryl Somers, who was filming at the Glasshouse (in the Olympic Park precinct) at the time, instructing him to pass it on to AFL legend Ron Barassi and the hosts of Sportsworld, who hadn’t given the Eagles a chance against the Cats.
“They were wonderful luminaries and passionate Victorian blokes… I told (Somers) to give it to the boys and to tell them to, ‘Suck on this,'” he said.
Langdon, who is a now a respected football commentator with radio station 6PR in Perth, said preparations for games in the 1990s were vastly different to those of today.
The Eagles flew into Melbourne the day before the game and stayed at the Pullman on the Park, overlooking Jolimont Station and the MCG.
It was a decision that Langdon believes was carefully calculated by Eagles coach Mick Malthouse.
“Mick made sure we had an area where we were able to look out onto the MCG so it was on our minds,” he said.
Having beaten Geelong in the semi-finals two weeks earlier, West Coast had a quiet belief in what they could achieve as a group and were determined to prove the Victorian naysayers wrong.
On the morning of the game, Langdon can remember waking up and going for a walk through Fitzroy Gardens, surrounded by passionate Geelong fans awaiting the first bounce.
“There were Geelong supporters parking their cars, getting chairs ready, their eskies out and drinking beer at 7am,” he said.
Malthouse, who played in Richmond’s 1980 premiership and understood what it took to win on the big day, made the players walk across Yarra Park to get to the ground.
Langdon described it as a way to immerse themselves into the energy of what Grand Final day was all about.
On the way the players encountered two young Geelong supporters holding signs sporting the message: ‘West Coast W*****s’.
“They started doing laps around us and I remember Glen Jakovich, who had already covered himself in baby oil, taunting the kids,” Langdon said.
“I thought he was going to eat one of the poor little children.”
After safely navigating their way through the crowd and into the bowels of the MCG, Malthouse began his military-themed pre-game address.
“Mick started on this war story and afterwards gave us this A4 piece of paper saying, ‘Death before Defeat’ at the bottom of the army insignia,” Langdon recalled.
“I’ll never forget that until the day I die.”
Despite the energy from Malthouse, Geelong jumped the Eagles early taking a 14-point lead into half-time.
The Eagles had struggled to settle, having their feathers ruffled by Geelong’s aggresive style of play.
“Tony Evans and Ashley McIntosh, the youngsters in our team, were getting roughed up by Billy Brownless and Don Pyke eventually got poleaxed by Gary Ablett,” he said.
“The concussion rules these days would never have allowed him back on the field but he played on.”
West Coast eventually regained its confidence, running out 28-point winners.
Arriving back in Perth the day after the game, West Coast fans had lined Brearley Avenue (which led out of the airport at the time) with their cars and eskies ready to welcome their premiership heroes home.
“Although we won the premiership again in 1994, I’ve never seen scenes like that day since,” he said.
“To take the premiership off the Victorians for the very first time was a significant moment in a changing landscape of what we now know as a national competition.”
Langdon, who injured his knee in the 1993 season and did not play in the 1994 flag, described 1992 as “the greatest moment” in his 100-game career.
Come Friday night, Langdon’s role will be vastly different, with the 51-year-old flying to Melbourne to call the game.
Although he still refers to himself as a West Coast supporter and hopes to see more success for his side in the future, Langdon only has one hope for Friday night’s game: May the best team win.