North Melbourne vs West Cost/Collingwood

By Corey McKernan

The season is up and under way, and Round One saw yet another brilliant, tight clash between North Melbourne and the West Coast Eagles. Looking ahead to round two, North come up against my childhood side, Collingwood, and I thought it would be appropriate to share my experiences as a North player against these two sides.

There are not many one on one battles in AFL history that are as famous as the Wayne Carey vs. Glen Jakovich duels during the 90’s. I was lucky enough to play alongside Wayne, which gave me an up close up view of how it all unfolded. There are many things that made this battle the most famous battle of the modern era. They were the modern day football heavyweights that were the champions of their respective football clubs, with each battle being fought a different way to the one before.

Physically, they were both supreme looking athletes who stood around around 6 foot 3 in the old scale. However, unlike many of Carey’s opponent’s Jakovich wasn’t a player who Wayne could intimidate given Jakovich would’ve had 5 to 7 kilos on Wayne. I have spoken to Glen Jakovich about a finals game at the MCG where he walked past me, and told him I was in shock at how big he was. He looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger!

The game styles during the 90’s were about contested football, and North Melbourne’s game plan suited Wayne Carey. His ability to win one on one marking duels when North bombed the ball in quickly was a strength of his game given he was able to manoeuvre 98% of his opponents. Jakovich was in the 2% that weren’t easily pushed around, and you would play to Jakovich’s strength if you wrestled with him.

The media loved the battle and would always like to say who was leading the score in their individual battle. I am sure this had a huge impact on how they both built themselves up to play on one another. There was never a clear advantage between either player; just when you thought that one player had the ascendancy, the other would come up with a great performance.

As much as people thought the outcome of the game hinged on this battle, more often than not it was the cavalcade of other stars from both teams that determined the outcome.
Consider some of the names on the list the graced both team. For North Melbourne, Archer, Stevens, Schwass, Longmire and Martyn; Matera, Sumich, Mainwaring, Kemp and Worsfold for the Eagles. The crowd, parochial West Australians, loved the fact that one of their own could tame and beat the King at his own game.

If North were able to get the ball in quickly and to Wayne’s advantage, nobody could stop him. If Wayne were to play to his strength, his running, he simply couldn’t be beaten. People named his courage, leadership and skills as his greatest assets, but Wayne’s running was at a close standard to Anthony Stevens and John Blakey. It gave him that ability to lead a player up the ground, then double back towards goal and take a mark running with the flight of the ball, and it was for this he became most famous. I think sometimes Wayne wanted to prove to the world that he was stronger than Glen, but the best way to win the battle was to move around.

Unless something changes we won’t see battles like Carey and Jakovich again. The stars aligned and made way for a truly heavyweight contest and an incredible spectacle. For the record I give the score to my old mate Duck but only just!!!

When growing up as a kid all you want to do is play for the club you followed. In my case, I barracked for the Magpies and went nearly every week to Victoria Park with my aunty and uncle, dreaming of one day pulling on the famous black and white stripes… I was even in the Collingwood cheer squad!!

In the end I did pull on the stripes, but it was for the blue and white of North Melbourne.

After my first experience against Collingwood, as we lost by a kick after the siren, I understood why the world hated them. The kick after the siren part wasn’t too bad, but it was their supporters and the way they gave it to us after the game that stuck in my mind. All this after an under 19 game!!

Eventually I made it on to North Melbourne’s senior list, and after being named as an emergency several times in 1993 I made sure I was going to be permanent fixture in 1994. My 7th game of football was to prove a highlight and also one of the defining games of my career. We played Collingwood on a Friday night at the MCG with two significant milestones; North Melbourne’s 125th anniversary game and Collingwood captain Tony Shaw’s 300th game.

For a lifelong Collingwood supporter, playing in front of 75,000 people at the MCG was as big as it gets, and it was also made bigger for our team with Wayne Carey out of the team. Playing against guys who you were your idols growing up is a weird experience, but you really have to block it out and treat them all the same. It did feel weird to be out on the field, but I really loved the occasion even after only 7 games of football.

I stood up and played well, and I even collected the 3 Brownlow votes. I loved the big crowd and the occasion of that evening and it enabled me to draw on that whenever we played finals moving forward. It’s one aspect that playing for Collingwood you would really enjoy, and I think it would help your performance by playing in front of 60,000 every week.

Having said that, playing Friday night football for North is nearly my favourite memory. We owned it, we started it; plain and simple. The players treated it that way, and we always gave something special for the MCG on a Friday night.

The North Melbourne youngsters will soon find out what it’s like to play the Pies in front of a big crowd and will hopefully come out of it with the same positives that I did.


Corey McKernan played at the highest level of AFL for over a decade and was part of the North Melbourne Premiership teams in 1996 and 1999.

Individually Corey won the AFLPA MVP Award in 1996 and also tied for the Brownlow that same year but was ineligible due to suspension. He is a former All Australian, Best and Fairest winner and leading goal kicker.

Corey finished his career on 237 matches.

Corey McKernan proves that there is a life after professional sport for Australian athletes. Since retiring in 2005, he developed his strong passion for sport into his dream job with the creation of Corey McKernan Ultimate Events.

Since its inception, Corey McKernan Ultimate Events has successfully hosted numerous Grand Final Eve lunches and Spring Carnival events that will once again take place in 2011.

Corey McKernan Ultimate Events hosted their inaugural Super Bowl Tour in 2011, and are about to embark on their 2011 US Masters Tour at the start of April. For more information, check out http://www.mckernanevents.com.au

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    Hi Corey,
    Great recount of a great era. Friday night was the North and Carey show just as Sunday arvo became the Swans and Plugger show. The other player were perhaps unfairly overshadowed by their dominance. Unfortunatle they wouldn’t be able to get away with it now as some hack would drop back and fill the spaces they used to run into. I always felt you should have been awarded the Charlie retrospectively just as other players who lost on count backs were. The trip rule would now not be deemed harsh enough to be suspendable, I was especially annoyed by Macavaney’s flippant “bad luck corey but you know the rules” comment. Personaly I would have told Bruce to jam his rule up his coit. So congratulations on your composure and acceptance of a dodging decision. Welcome aboard the SS Almanac> Im sure few other on her might like to chew your ears ie One Josh Barnstable.
    cheers
    TR

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    Gday Corey,

    Welcome to the Almanac.

    In all sincerity and due respect to Arch, Shannon, Belly, Simmo, The King and Mick, you were our best player across our two winning GFs. You were stiff not to win Norm Smith in ’96 and you and The King turned the game against Carlton in ’99. I watched ’96 from The Outback Bar in Covent Garden, London, and slipped outside to the cold night air for a quiet tear at the final siren. I Will never forget Ian Fairley’s goal time on, last term.

    My two favourite King v Jako games were an MCG qualifying final in the mid ’90s and a Sunday game at Subiaco during the same period. Jako was outstanding in the GF. He totally dominated The King, who was reduced to playing a decoy role to take Jako out of the play. The Eagles had control of the game early, however, we over ran them late in the game. It was a great victory that signaled the end of the Eagles golden era. At Subiaco, The King kicked six from CHF, including a classic from the boundary after outsprinting a pursuing Jako. I watched in a crowded room – maybe at my sister’s house – and it was one of those few TV footy moments that draw a ‘WOW!’ from me. The King at his best.

    Enjoy your Masters trip. I was there in ’96, Tiger’s first victory. There may be an account of the experience somewhere on this site. Would love to have a chat upon your return about all things Augusta and Arden Street.

    Regards,

    Andrew Starkie
    NMFC member for life.

  3. Wonderful article Corey.

    Dad was just telling me a story before about a North Melbourne v Fitzroy match from 1995 that we attended. On our way to the North Melbourne social club, going up some stairs, my NMFC beanie fell off my head, and you grabbed it and put it back on my head for me on your way past us. So, thanks I guess. :)

    Hope you can convert your brother from the Crows to the Roos, he looks like a damn good player.

    Lastly, welcome to the Almanac.

    Josh

  4. Damo Balassone says:

    Good piece Corey.

    I remember that game in ’94 well (although Shawry wasn’t captain at that point). Pies were on top early and Roos ran all over them in the 3rd term – I think Longmire kicked a bag.

    I know people like to debate the Carey vs. Jakovich rivalry, but surely it’s easier to punch the ball than it is to catch it. No disrespect to Jakovich, but he was not in the same class as the King. No way. I’m not saying he wasn’t an elite defender, though.

  5. Andrew Starkie says:

    Damo, I was at that game in ’94. You’re right, Magpies were all over us early and we looked gone at half-time. The Horse got us home. Great game. Footy was at its best in the mid ’90s.

  6. Pamela Sherpa says:

    What a great era of football. Thanks for the memories.

  7. westcoastdave says:

    As a West Coast fan, I loved those Jakovich-Carey contests (always Jakovich-Carey, NEVER Carey-Jakovich!). For me they were the amongst the high points of a golden era in footy.

    I’ve had the good fortune to stand next to both Glen Jakovich (at Perth Airport) and Greg Norman (I caddied on the Australian tour in 97-98) at differnet time. Like Corey, but from a much safer vantage point, I remember thinking how darn big Glen Jakovich really was.

    Interestingly, Greg Norman was much smaller than I had always imagined he would be – not that he was small exactly, but he wasn’t 9-foot high like I think I had always imagined. Ernie Els though, was bloody huge!

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