In This Round…NAB Cup Grand Final

By Tom Briglia

On the Thursday of each week in the lead-up to a St Kilda match, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

St Kilda vs Carlton, 1996 Ansett Australia Cup Grand Final
St Kilda 6.5, 10.7, 17.8, 20.10 (130)
Carlton 2.3, 6.6, 8.9, 10.12 (72)
Crowd: 66,888 at Waverley

It was one of those nights where everything seemed to go right.

St Kilda blazed their way to a first premiership of any sort since that famous Grand Final victory 30 years before with stirring performances from Stewart Loewe, who kicked six goals, the effervescent Robert Harvey, the emerging Peter Everitt and Michael Tuck medal-winner Nicky Winmar, who were wonderfully supported by a host of youngsters.

The Saints had demolished Hawthorn and Adelaide in the first two weeks of the competition by 54 and 43 points respectively, with co-captain Loewe booting eight and then seven goals in those games.

A semi-final against West Coast was much more of an arm wrestle, and it took heroics from Peter Everitt and youngsters Joel Smith and Aussie Jones to get St Kilda over the line in the second half to book a date with the Blues, reigning premiers after a superb and record-breaking 1995 season.

Smith and Jones would feature again in the climax to the competition, as would Tony Brown, Steven Sziller; all would play solid games through the midfield and forward line and kick goals.

Co-captain Nathan Burke would kick the first goal of the match after marking in front of goal, but his input in the game would be curtailed early after a collision that left him with a minor concussion – but most importantly, we would be holding aloft the cup after the match with Loewe and coach Stan Alves.

The first quarter was punctuated by two St Kilda goals heavily involving Winmar. The first was a kick out of half-back which found Winmar in the middle of the ground, who proceeded to smoothly weave his way through traffic, bounce and kick long to 18-year old Joe McLaren. Yet to play a senior match, McLaren would go back and from a tight angle, kick truly to set the huge crowd alight.

Winmar would a provide a brilliant goal of his own soon after, his spoil of Carlton ruckman Matthew Allan’s handball out the St Kilda 50 metre arc would see the ball in mid-air knocked on into open space by Everitt 40 metres out from the Saints’ goal. Winmar pounced, not breaking stride in scooping up the ball and majestically curling the ball through the goals with his left foot for a stirring goal.

A 26-point lead to the sentimental favourites as sandpapered back to 25 by the Blues on the half-time siren when captain Stephen Kernahan kicked a goal from directly in front, and they came within three goals early in the third quarter after a goal to Ben Sexton. Although missing star midfielder Craig Bradley, it seemed that Carlton’s class just might bring them right back into the contest.

But when challenged, St Kilda exploded into action.

An establishment of dominance over Carlton defenders Stephen Silvagni and Ang Christou saw multiple goals to Loewe and, in Bruce MacAvaney’s words, “a colossus” Everitt, who began to take control across the half-forward line. These were topped-off by Jason Traianidis’ spectacular long-range goal off the ground; Jayson Daniels kicked a major with a delightful snap from a boundary line throw-in, and Brown thrillingly kicked truly on the run late in the term.

Brown’s goal was followed up by a brilliant passage of play in which Harvey combined with Tony Brown to deliver the ball to Everitt, who found Loewe on the lead at the top of the 50m arc. From there, Loewe would go back and thump the ball through for a goal, and the Saints had a completed a brilliant 10 minutes of football and seven-goal quarter. They were now well beyond Carlton’s reach.

The final term was simply a countdown to a rare St Kilda title. Loewe, Smith and Luke Beveridge would all continue the good work of the third term with goals, amongst a backdrop of jubilant Saints fans waiting for the final siren. When it did come, thousands poured onto the ground in ecstasy in unprecedented scenes. St Kilda had won a premiership.

Winmar was awarded with the Michael Tuck medal and Loewe, Burke and Alves accepted the Ansett Australia Cup. It seemed the Saints were ready to take on anything that came their way in 1996, but would lose vital games both early and late in the season to eventually fall out of September contention. Of course, a year later they would find themselves playing off for a different kind of premiership, but that in itself is an entirely different story.

Links
Nicky Winmar’s wonderful first-quarter goal
Jason Traianidis kicks a spectacular goal in the third term
“Champagne Footy” – Harvey to Everitt, Everitt to Loewe
A number of highlights of the match can also be viewed in “Ecstasy of Saints”, amongst other 1996 Ansett Australia Cup St Kilda highlights. Of course, all of these matches can be identified by St Kilda wearing the “cross” jumper
Official photos can be viewed here

Other installments of “In This Round”:
NAB Cup Semi-Final – Essendon vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2008
NAB Cup Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1995
NAB Cup Round 1 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2006