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.