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However, with a number of young players such as Richard "Dick" Head joining veterans James Tierney and former South Adelaide champion "Dinny" Reedman, West's fortunes were about to change and the club would enter what is known as its "Golden Era" Prior to the 1908 season, West Adelaide never finished higher than fifth on the premiership ladder.In 1908 however, Wests not only became SANFL premiers for the first time defeating Norwood in the Grand Final at the Adelaide Oval but they also became Champions of Australia when they defeated powerful Victorian Football League team Carlton by five goals at the Adelaide Oval.West Adelaide was one of the "poor" clubs and consequently won only one of its first 31 matches.From the 1899 season the SAFA introduced district football in which players had to play for the club in the district where they lived.
West Adelaide was formed in 1892, adopting magenta and white as their colours and the club played in the Adelaide and Suburban Association from 1892 to 1896.
Wests won the Adelaide and Suburban Association premierships in 18 and following the club's annual general meeting on 30 March 1897, the club joined the South Australian Football Association (SAFA) in 1897. Upon entering the SAFA, West Adelaide changed their colours to black and red, the colours previously worn by the defunct Adelaide Football Club and moved its training headquarters from the South to the West Parklands.
The club often struggled to field a full team in its early years as clubs were then controlled by wealthy businessmen and it was no secret that players were regularly poached from less wealthy clubs.
West Adelaide immediately gained the services of one of the best players of the time, "Bunny" Daly who threw himself into developing the club.
Nonetheless, the club still struggled and had won only twenty and drawn two of 127 games by the end of 1907, including a second winless season in 1906.
This led to the development of a Māori protest movement which in turn led to greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in the late 20th century.