Mick Malthouse backing West Coast in the Grand Final against Collingwood

Mick Malthouse (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Mick Malthouse (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

MICK Malthouse, who has coached both West Coast and Collingwood to AFL premierships, is leaning towards an Eagles win in Saturday’s grand final.

Malthouse has delivered West Coast two premierships, in 1992 and 1994, and Collingwood one, in 2010.

Which is his favourite? None of them.

The AFL’s record holder for most games coached maintains his favourite season didn’t finish with a flag or even a finals appearance.

“My dead-set favourite year is now 1987,” Malthouse said in 2015.

Malthouse was then coaching Footscray, a club on the financial brink of extinction.

“We were broke,” Malthouse said.

“We were introducing kids from the under 19s into the seniors … we ended up missing out on the finals by half a game. It was an extraordinary effort.”

The Bulldogs were Malthouse’s first stint as a coach, from 1984 to 1989.

He then crossed the country to lead West Coast from 1990. And his Eagles flew across the country in six consecutive weeks to make a preliminary final – they lost.

But if 1987 is his favourite season, Malthouse rated those six consecutive away games in 1990 as “the best core period of six games I have been involved in”.

Malthouse said the road trips galvanised the Eagles, who lost the following year’s grand final.

“There is nothing more damaging to the soul as an athlete or coach than losing a grand final, it leaves a dagger in your heart,” he said.

The pain helped drive Malthouse and his Eagles to their breakthrough premiership in 1992 – the first by a non-Victorian club.

West Coast defeated Geelong by 28 points with big guns firing – winger Peter Matera kicked five goals, star forward Peter Sumich booted six, Brett Heady gathered 28 disposals.

But Malthouse reserved special praise for a man he dubbed “the little piglet”, Tony Evans.

When Geelong threatened to run away early, the 175cm-tall Evans kicked a couple of crucial goals nearing half-time to give his side hope. And he finished with three majors as the Eagles overturned a 12-point half-time deficit.

“For a player who was slow, podgy and a short kick … he turned that game on its head,” Malthouse said.

The Eagles were beaten semi-finalists in 1993 before Malthouse engineered another premiership in 1994, smashing Geelong by 80 points.

Midfielder Dean Kemp was best-afield, now-Adelaide coach Don Pyke had a game-high 26 disposals, Glenn Jakovich ruled in defence – and ‘the little piglet’ again kicked three goals.

But instead of later recalling the glory, Malthouse remembers that grand final for “one of my great regrets” – not selecting Mitchell White.

The versatile White had made a comeback for the preliminary final after missing a month because of a groin injury. But after managing just eight disposals, Malthouse dropped him for the grand final.

“I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to make that decision as I should have,” Malthouse admitted in 2011, saying he should have dropped an unnamed younger player instead of White.

Malthouse’s tenure at West Coast ended in 1999 – the Eagles didn’t miss the finals in his decade in charge.

The master coach moved to Collingwood, but it would take another decade before claiming another premiership when, in 2010, the Magpies prevailed in the replay of a drawn grand final against St Kilda.

Malthouse hailed the “extraordinary chemistry” of his 2010 batch of players, who won the replay by 56 points.

“I may be a bit delirious when I say I love them, but I do, I just love them to death,” he told the club’s celebration dinner.

An avid war buff, Malthouse revealed his game plan was built on military tactics of German World War II general Erwin Rommel, and the Roman legions.

Malthouse deployed a box formation in attack and defence, a strategy taken from the Romans.

“Very hard to penetrate … it had heavy fighting capabilities,” he said post-game.

“The second one was a bloke I studied because of his daring, Erwin Rommel’s front-assault was a methodology we adopted.”