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Suma's boot: When the Pies and Eagles were drawn together

Rivals Highlights: The battle of the birds West Coast and Collingwood have had some famous clashes
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THE EPIC 1990 qualifying final is one of footy's great Sliding Doors scenarios.

The oft-asked hypothetical question is: if West Coast full-forward Peter Sumich had kicked a match-winning goal instead of a behind that resulted in a draw, would Collingwood still have won the premiership?

The frantic finish at Waverley ended an enthralling contest and an extraordinary last quarter that had huge ramifications for the premiership race.

How it happened

In the first home and away season under the AFL banner, Collingwood (second) and West Coast (third) finished a game behind minor premier Essendon.

The Magpies entered the qualifying final with a 0-3 September record under coach Leigh Matthews but appeared primed for a tilt at the club's first premiership in 32 years, while the fledgling Eagles had made significant inroads in their first season under Mick Malthouse.

The teams' preparations contrasted starkly – the Pies hadn't left Victoria for seven weeks, but the Eagles were taking their third successive road trip.

In perfect conditions in front of a crowd of 57,546, Collingwood held the ascendancy in the first half but should have led by more than 12 points at the long break.

The Pies faced the Eagles in 1990 having never won a final under coach Leigh Matthews. All pictures: AFL Photos

The moment they don't replay but should

The sublimely talented Chris Lewis was probably the Eagles' best player with a brilliant performance in the midfield, and the 21-year-old also hit the scoreboard with telling effect.

Possibly the most spectacular and memorable display of magical ball skill I've ever seen.

With West Coast pressing in the third term, Lewis gathered a loose ball in the right forward pocket, fended off would-be tackler Scott Russell and almost lost his feet as he feigned back onto his left foot, snapping truly from near the boundary.

The 66-gamer slotted another important goal midway through the last quarter when Chris Waterman found him with a short pass just inside the arc. Lewis' set shot from 50 metres sailed through post-high and gave the plucky visitors a 10-point lead and hope for an upset.

Chris Lewis would dazzle for the Eagles over 215 decorated games.

BT's last hurrah

As Lewis ran back to the centre, Collingwood full-forward Brian Taylor returned to the field on his dodgy knees after warming the bench for two quarters.

The 1986 Coleman medallist, who'd led the Magpies goalkicking for the previous five seasons, had spent much of the season in the reserves as Matthews preferred an unconventional attack centred around brilliant medium-sized duo Peter Daicos and Gavin Brown.

In the first quarter against the Eagles the usually accurate Taylor had fired four shots at goal for just two behinds, and was dragged at quarter-time.

However, in what would be his last League game, the 28-year-old was instrumental in a Magpie revival, kicking two quick goals – the first from a contested chest mark and the second from a free kick – to give the Pies a two-point lead.

Brian Taylor would later create controversy at Collingwood with a behind-the-scenes book on the 1990 flag campaign.

That Daicos goal

Daicos had kicked three goals, including a laser-like torpedo from outside 50 and a left-footer across his body from just inside the arc.

The 'Macedonian Marvel' left his best 'til last.

With five minutes left, Pies enforcer Darren Millane – courageously playing with a broken thumb he'd carry through the finals series – used the underside of his right hand to handball to Daicos, who performed an act of sheer wizardry.

From the boundary in the left forward pocket, the Magpie maestro threaded an outrageous banana kick that Matthews later hailed in his 2013 autobiography Accept The Challenge as "possibly the most spectacular and memorable display of magical ball skill I've ever seen".

After three successive goals, the Pies were eight points clear and seemingly headed for victory.

The 1990 qualifying final was the scene for one of Peter Daicos's most brilliant feats.

West Coast surged again, with forward Karl Langdon sharking the ball from a throw-in to snap his second major and reduce the margin to two points with three minutes remaining.

A minute later Eagles teammate Chris Waterman missed a difficult snap and suddenly there was just one point in it.

Karl Langdon was a force in the Eagles' fearsome attack in the early 1990s.

The moment

With 40 seconds left, Millane handballed to himself along the boundary in defence and the ball struck West Coast runner Rob Wiley and went out of bounds. Curiously, the Eagles weren't penalised.

From the throw-in Langdon won another clearance, hacking the ball high across the face of goal where Sumich marked 15 metres out.

Sumich's grab put the result of the epic 1990 qualifying final in the Eagle's hands.

A booming but occasionally erratic kick, Sumich, 22, had already kicked four goals, including a couple from long range. This one required a defter touch from an acute angle on the 'wrong' side for a left-footer.

Sumich would normally have used a banana kick but was concerned that if he miscued he mightn't have scored and the Eagles would have lost. Instead, he kicked a drop punt – hard and high – and missed to the near side.

A few seconds later the final siren sounded to signal the first draw in a final since the 1977 drawn Grand Final between Collingwood and North Melbourne.

The scores at the final siren after Peter Sumich's behind.   

What happened next

The next week Collingwood won the qualifying final replay by 59 points.

The draw proved a blessing for the Magpies because it meant the underdone Dons hadn't played for three weeks when they finally played the second semi-final, which Matthews' men won by 63 points.

In the preliminary final, Kevin Sheedy's Bombers eliminated the Eagles (who were playing their sixth consecutive away game, including their fourth in a row at Waverley), before the Pies finally buried the 'Colliwobbles'.

The next year – after the AFL introduced extra time for minor finals – the Eagles made their first Grand Final, and the year after, 1992, they won their first premiership.

Daicos (r) and Darren Millane celebrate with the 1990 Premiership Cup.

Sumich (r) and Glen Jakovich after earning redemption by winning the 1992 Grand Final. Below Chris Lewis (l) with Tony Evans.

The little-known fact

When West Coast hosts Collingwood in their qualifying final in Perth on Saturday night, the two clubs will have met in seven finals since 1990 – matched by only Hawthorn and Geelong in the AFL era.

MEGA PREVIEW Collingwood v West Coast, second qualifying final

 

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