The West Coast Eagles were selected in 1986 as one of two expansion teams to enter the Victorian Football League (VFL) the following season, along with the Brisbane Bears. Ron Alexander was appointed as the team's inaugural coach in September 1986, with the inaugural squad, comprising a majority of players from the West Australian Football League (WAFL), unveiled in late October. Ross Glendinning, recruited from North Melbourne, was made the club's first captain as one of the few players with previous VFL experience. The team's first senior match in the VFL was played against Richmond at Subiaco Oval in late March 1987, with West Coast defeating Richmond by 14 points. Having won eleven games and lost eleven games for the season, the club finished eighth out of fourteen teams. At the end of the season, John Todd, the coach of Swan Districts in the WAFL, replaced Alexander as West Coast's coach. The club made the finals for the first time in 1988, but lost form the following season, winning only seven games to finish 11th on the ladder. Todd was sacked at the end of the 1989 season, and was replaced by Michael Malthouse, who had previously coached Footscray. With the competition having rebranded itself as the Australian Football League (AFL) at the start of the 1990 season, West Coast finished third on the ladder at the conclusion of the home-and-away season, and progressed to the preliminary final before losing to Essendon, having been forced to play four consecutive finals in Melbourne.
John Worsfold replaced Steve Malaxos as captain for the 1991 season, and the club finished the season as minor premiers for the first time, losing only three games. In the finals series, West Coast progressed to the grand final, but were defeated by Hawthorn by 53 points. Peter Sumich kicking 111 goals during the season, becoming the first West Coast player to reach a century of goals, as well as the first-ever left-footer. In 1992, West Coast finished fourth on the ladder, but again progressed to the grand final, defeating Geelong by 28 points to become the first team based outside Victoria to win a premiership. Having slipped to third in 1993, the club finished as minor premiers the following season, and went on to again defeat Geelong in the grand final to win its second premiership in three years. In 1995, a second AFL team based in Western Australia, the Fremantle Football Club, with the two clubs' subsequent rivalry branded as the "Western Derby". West Coast made the finals in every year that remained in the 1990s, but failed to reach another grand final, with a fourth-place finish in 1996 their best result. Worsfold retired at the end of the 1998 season, and was replaced by his vice-captain, Guy McKenna, who served as captain until his retirement two seasons later.
Malthouse left West Coast at the end of the 1999 season to take up the senior coaching position with Collingwood, and was replaced by Ken Judge, who had been coach of Hawthorn. The 2000 and 2001 seasons were marked by a rapid decrease in form after the loss of several key senior players, culminating in a 14th-place in 2001, at the time the worst in the club's history. Round eighteen of the 2000 season marked the club's final match at the WACA Ground, which had been used concurrently with Subiaco Oval since the club's inception. Judge was sacked at the end of 2001, and replaced by the club's former captain John Worsfold, who had been serving as assistant coach at Carlton. The club made the finals in 2002, 2003, and 2004, but each time failed to progress past the elimination final. Ben Cousins was made sole captain of the club in 2002, having shared the role with Dean Kemp the previous season. During this time, the team was boosted by a number of high picks in the AFL Draft gained as a result of the previous poor finishes. Chris Judd, who had been taken with pick three in the 2001 National Draft, won the Brownlow Medal as the best player in the competition in 2004, becoming the first West Coast player to win the award. In 2005, the Eagles finished second on the ladder after the regular season, and progressed to the grand final against Sydney, where they were defeated by four points. For the second consecutive year, the Brownlow Medal was won by an Eagles player, with Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr finishing first and second, respectively. West Coast finished as minor premiers for a third time in 2006, with seventeen wins from 22 games. In the 2006 finals series, the club lost the qualifying final to Sydney by one point, but after defeating the Western Bulldogs and the Adelaide in the semi- and preliminary final, respectively, again progressed to the grand final, where the Eagles defeated Sydney by a point in an exact reversal of the score in the qualifying final. The two grand finals in 2005 and 2006 were part of a series of close games between the two clubs that resulted in a total difference of thirteen points across six games, an AFL record.
The club finished third during the regular 2007 season, but after a series of late-season injuries lost both its games during the final series. During the past few seasons, the club had been impacted by a series of highly publicised off-field controversies involving allegations of recreational drug use, nightclub assaults, and links to outlawed motorcycle gangs. Michael Gardiner was traded after crashing his car while drunk, and Ben Cousins resigned the captaincy of the club prior to the 2006 season after being charged with evading a police breath-test, with Chris Judd taking over as captain. Cousins was sacked at the end of the 2007 season after being arrested for possession of drugs, while Judd requested to be traded back to Victoria, and was traded to Carlton in exchange for a key forward, Josh Kennedy, and several draft picks. Darren Glass, the club's full-back since the retirement of Ashley McIntosh in 2003, was then appointed captain. These controversies were followed by a series of poor seasons on-field, culminating in the club's first wooden spoon, after winning only four games in 2010. The three-year period between 2008 and 2010 was the longest time in the club's history without a finals appearance. Despite predictions of another bottom-four finish in 2011, West Coast won 16 games to finish in the top four, becoming the first team since the Brisbane Lions in 1998 and 1999 to reach a preliminary final after finishing last the previous season.
West Coast's strong form continued into 2012, losing the 2012 NAB Cup grand final to Adelaide and spending the early part of the season on top of the table. They eventually finished fifth and bowed out in the semi finals to Collingwood. The Eagles went into 2013 as premiership favourites, although injuries and poor form saw the club finish in thirteenth position on the ladder, with the club losing its final three games by an average of 71 points. Coach John Worsfold resigned on September 5, 2013.
Former North Melbourne player Adam Simpson was announced as the team's new coach for the 2014 season. Darren Glass was initially renamed as captain, but retired from football after round 12. He was replaced by five acting co-captains for the remainder of the season – Shannon Hurn, Josh Kennedy, Eric Mackenzie, Matt Priddis, and Scott Selwood. West Coast had a strong preseason and won their opening three matches, although they eventually finished in ninth position. During the season the club were labeled as "flat track bullies" due to beating lower placed teams by large margins, yet failing to defeat teams above them on the ladder. Midfielder Matt Priddis became the third Eagles player to win a Brownlow medal, winning the 2014 medal at the end of the season.
On December 7, 2014, Shannon Hurn was appointed as sole captain for 2015 and beyond. At the start of the 2015 season, West Coast lost two of their opening three games and suffered injuries to key players. Despite this, they would go on to lose only three more games for the rest of the home and away season, finishing behind local rivals Fremantle in second position. The Eagles would go on to defeat Hawthorn and North Melbourne in the qualifying and preliminary finals by 32 and 25 points respectively to qualify for the 2015 Grand Final, their first since 2006, only to lose to Hawthorn by 46 points. The following season would end up being a disappointment, with the team failing to produce another top 4 finish in spite of a late form reversal. In their elimination final, the heavily favoured Eagles were defeated at home by the Western Bulldogs, who would go on to claim the 2016 premiership.
The West Coast Eagles have been owned in full by the West Australian Football Commission (WAFC) since 1989. The club was originally owned and operated by Indian Pacific Limited, a publicly listed company that was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in 1990 after 75% of the shares were bought out by the WAFC. The last minority shareholders were bought out in 2000. West Coast pay approximately $3 million in rent to the WAFC for the use of Subiaco Oval, and 50–70% of overall profits. In 2001, a South African investment company, Southern African Investments Ltd. (SAIL), had proposed a AUD$25-million deal for a 49-percent stake in the club, with the bid being rejected in 2003. In 2011, it was reported that the AFL had lobbied to take over the ownership of both the Eagles and the Fremantle Football Club from the WAFC.
West Coast is currently one of the most financially successful clubs in the AFL, both in terms of revenue and profit. In May 2011, the club's total revenue for the previous season was reported as $45.6 million, equal first with Collingwood in the AFL. The club's football department spending over the 2011 season was reported as $18.6 million, second to Collingwood.
The club's 2011 membership of 54,745 people was a club record, and the fourth-highest overall in the AFL. Membership numbers are limited by the capacity of Domain Stadium, which holds 43,500 seats, with 39,000 reserved exclusively for club members. In March 2012, The Weekend West reported that the cost of a West Coast Eagles adult club membership was A$283, the most of any club in the AFL. The current waiting list for family memberships is over 9,000 people, with a total waiting list in excess of 20,000 people, or around four years. As of July 2015, the club reached a record high of over 60,000 members. It remains the club with the highest amount of members in Western Australia, as well as being the 6th highest in the league.
The number-one ticket holder is a position in most Australian Football League clubs given to a well-known supporter of the club. The West Coast Eagles' website lists "longevity of service", "passion for the club", "contribution to the community of Western Australia", and "the level at which they are recognised in their chosen profession by the community" as criteria for the position. Number-one ticket holders generally serve for two years.
In total, 455,899 people attended West Coast Eagles home games in 2011, equating to an average of 37,992 people per game. The highest-attended home game was against North Melbourne in the elimination final, which was attended by 41,790 people. The highest attendance for any game featuring West Coast was against Collingwood in the semi-final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, attended by 65,483 people. In terms of television audience, on average 519,000 people viewed West Coast Eagles games in 2011, with a high of 1,074,000 viewers for the round 16 game against Geelong.
West Coast's official colours are navy blue and gold, having previously been royal blue and gold. The club's current logo, which was introduced in 2000, features a stylised wedge-tailed eagle with the words "West Coast Eagles" written underneath. Previous logos have all incorporated a stylised eagle's head, always facing east (i.e. towards the right, where east appears on most maps) to represent the eagle eyeing off its prey in the eastern states. As part of the AFL's Mascot Manor program, a bald eagle club mascot, Rick "The Rock", was created in 2003 to promote the club to junior players. The mascot is in part named after the song. A real wedge-tailed eagle, Auzzie, has performed tricks at West Coast home games since 2007.
From 2000 to 2015, the club's home jumper design featured a stylised eagle on a tricolour of navy blue, white and gold. This jumper was introduced during the 2000 season along with a much criticized ochre away jumper as part of a rebrand of the club to coincide with the new millennium. The ochre jumper was later dropped at the end of 2002 in favor of an updated version of the club's former royal blue jumper, which was worn during their 1992 and 1994 premierships. During October 2015, the club announced a navy version of the royal blue jumper would replace the tricolour guernsey as the club's home uniform for 2016 and beyond.
Starting in 2010, the Eagles also wore a third, predominantly white guernsey in order to avoid visual clashes with teams who used similar colours. It was dropped as the club's designated clash jumper at the end of 2016, in favor of an updated version of their original 1987 "yellow peril" guernsey.
Puma has manufactured the club's uniforms since their inaugural season in 1987, and is the "official apparel and preferred footwear supplier of the West Coast Eagles". A number of sponsors' logos have featured on West Coast jumpers and shorts. The Burswood Entertainment Complex was the original sponsor for the 1987 season, but SGIO (1988 to present), an insurance provider, Hungry Jack's (1991–1999; 2003–2011), a fast food chain; BGC (1997–1998), a construction conglomerate, and Bankwest (2012–present), a bank, have also served as major sponsors. Bankwest replaced Hungry Jack's as the major jumper sponsor for the 2012 season. Hungry Jack's later criticised West Coast for dropping the sponsorship deal after a 25-year partnership. As part of West Coast's (and the AFL's in general) efforts to develop the game outside of Australia, the club partners with a number of internationally based football clubs, providing them with guernseys and other equipment. There are currently Eagles-affiliated clubs (also referred to as "sister clubs") in Cambodia (the Cambodian Eagles), Canada (the Toronto Eagles), China (the Shanghai Eagles), Italy (the Milano Eagles), and Sweden (the Karlstad Eagles). West Coast is also responsible for sponsoring FootyWILD, a program similar to Auskick held in KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa.
The club's official team song is "We're the Eagles", composed by Kevin Peek, a former member of the progressive rock band Sky, and initially recorded at Peek's studio in Roleystone. The original 1987 version, which was played after the 1992 and 1994 Grand Final victories, featured anti-Victorian verses and a different musical structure. It was eventually altered in the mid-1990s. The re-recorded version had new verses added by Ken Walther, who also composed Fremantle's 1995 team song. "Eagle Rock", a 1971 song recorded by Daddy Cool, is also traditionally played at home games.
Players who have played 150 games for the club are automatically inducted as life members of the club. Other players, administrators and coaches that have made an outstanding contribution to the club have also been inducted. No life members were inducted in 2001. The following players, coaches and administrators are life members of the club:
In 1996 as part of the AFL's centenary celebrations, and the club's 10-year celebrations, the Eagles named a team of the decade.
In 2006 the West Coast Eagles named a greatest team of the past twenty years as part of the club's twentieth anniversary celebrations:
The Australian Football Hall of Fame was established in 1996:Ross Glendinning – 2000
John Todd – 2003
Peter Matera – 2006
Dean Kemp – 2007
Glen Jakovich – 2008
Guy McKenna – 2009
Bill Sutherland(Trainer) 2011
Chris Lewis(Player) – 2011
Peter Matera(Player) – 2011
Dean Kemp(Player) – 2011
Glen Jakovich(Player) – 2011
Guy McKenna(Player) – 2011
John Worsfold(Player/Coach) – 2011
Mick Malthouse(Coach) – 2011
Michael Brennan(Player) – 2014
Brett Heady(Player) – 2014
Chris Mainwaring(Player) – 2014
Ashley McIntosh(Player) – 2014
Peter Sumich(Player) – 2014
Trevor Nisbett(Administrator) – 2014
The Brownlow Medal is awarded to the best player in the competition during the home-and-away season as voted by the umpires:Winners
Chris Judd (2004)
Ben Cousins (2005)
Matt Priddis (2014)
Craig Turley (1991)
Peter Matera (1994, 1997)
Ben Cousins (2003 (equal))
Daniel Kerr (2005, 2007)
Matt Priddis (2015)
The Leigh Matthews Trophy is awarded to the best player in the competition as voted by the AFL Players Association:Ben Cousins – 2005
Chris Judd – 2006
The Best Captain Award is awarded to the best captain as voted by the AFL Players Association:Ross Glendinning – 1988
The Best First-Year Player Award is awarded to the best first-year player as voted by the AFL Players Association:Daniel Kerr – 2001
Chris Judd – 2002
The Norm Smith Medal is awarded to the player judged best-on-ground in the AFL Grand Final:Peter Matera – 1992
Dean Kemp – 1994
Chris Judd – 2005 (losing side)
Andrew Embley – 2006
The Coleman Medal is awarded to the player who kicks the most goals in the AFL competition during the home-and-away season:Scott Cummings (88 goals) – 1999
Josh Kennedy (75 goals) – 2015
Josh Kennedy (80 goals) – 2016
The AFL Rising Star is awarded to the best rookie player in the competition during a particular season:Ben Cousins – 1996
The Goal of the Year is awarded to the player judged to have kicked the best goal during a particular season:Ben Cousins – 1999
Mark Merenda – 2001
Daniel Kerr – 2003
Chris Judd – 2005
The Mark of the Year is awarded to the player judged to have taken the best mark during a particular season:Ashley Sampi – 2004
Nic Naitanui – 2015
The All-Australian team is a representative team consisting of the best players during a particular season. Prior to 1991 it was awarded to the best players in each interstate football carnival.
Prior to 1991 the VFL Team of the Year was announced each year, consisting of the best players during that season in the Victorian Football League.
The club's strongest rivalry is with the Fremantle Football Club, the only other AFL club based in Western Australia. The two teams play off in the Western Derby twice each home-and-away season. Overall, 42 derbies have been played, with the Eagles winning 22 and Fremantle winning 20. Derbies usually incorporate a sold-out crowd: the average crowd since the first derby was held in 1995 has been 39,910 people per game, with the average crowd for the past ten games 40,587 people per game, out of a total ground capacity of 43,600 people.
The club's earliest rivalry was with VFL powerhouse the Hawthorn Hawks. This rivalry stemmed from a series of memorable matches in the early 1990s, most notably the 1991 Grand Final. It was considered the first ever interstate rivalry in the competition, although it had fallen to irrelevance in later years. 24 years later in 2015, the two clubs would meet again in another Grand Final.
Other rivalries include with Essendon, Geelong, and a rivalry with the Sydney Swans, which stems from a series of six matches between 2005 and 2007, including both the 2005 and 2006 Grand Finals, in which the total points difference was 13, the lowest of all-time. This sequence included three one-point matches between the 2006 qualifying final and round one of the 2007 season.Biggest winning margin: 135 points - 26.21 (177) vs. Adelaide 5.12 (42), Subiaco Oval, 13 August 1995
Biggest losing margin: 142 points - 1.12 (18) vs. Essendon 25.10 (160), Windy Hill, 15 July 1989
Highest score: 29.18 (192) vs. Brisbane Bears, W.A.C.A., 17 April 1988
Lowest score: 1.12 (18) vs. Essendon, Windy Hill, 15 July 1989
Highest score conceded: 30.21 (201) vs. Sydney, S.C.G., 19 July 1987
Lowest score conceded: 2.8 (20) vs. Melbourne, Subiaco Oval, 24 March 1991
Highest aggregate score: 295 vs. Carlton, Princes Park, 18 April 1987
Lowest aggregate score: 76 vs. Footscray, Whitten Oval, 23 August 1992
Most goals in a match: Scott Cummings, 14 goals vs. Adelaide, W.A.C.A., 1 April 2000
Highest crowd: 98,633 vs. Hawthorn, MCG, 3 October 2015
Lowest crowd: 4859 vs. Brisbane Bears, Carrara, 16 August 1987
Highest WA crowd: 44,142 vs. Hawthorn, Subiaco Oval, 8 September 1991
Lowest WA crowd: 12,803 vs. St. Kilda, W.A.C.A., 12 May 1988
Highest home-and-away season crowd: 62,957 vs. Collingwood, MCG, 23 June 2012