1996 Summary1996 was declared a year of celebration as the 100th season of VFL/ AFL football. Carlton began as reigning Premiers and were widely tipped to repeat that performance. They were coming off the most dominant season on record, having lost just 2 games in 1995 and still on a run of 16 wins in a row - culminating with an emphatic victory in the 1995 Grand Final. Supporters were as arrogant as they could be.
Prior to the season, the Blues made a few trades in an attempt to replenish the list. A number of players who missed out on the Grand Final win were traded. Troy Bond went to Adelaide in a 3-way deal and would taste premiership glory the following year. Adrian Hickmott, who played for Geelong in the 1995 Grand Final would join Carlton as part of that deal. James Cook was traded to the Bulldogs for Ben Sexton, brother of Michael. Ben Harrison was traded for Tiger forward Justin Murphy. Our first pick in the draft #19 was traded to the Saints for Craig Devonport. They would use that pick to draft Barry Hall. Sexton and Devonport would play just 5 games between them in 1996 and not survive beyond that year. Only one of Carlton's 4 new draftees would ever play a game, Jacob Anstey - though he would only play 16 games in 1997-8.
Carlton's premiership defence was dealt a blow by the decision of defender Andrew McKay to move to Queensland to continue his veterinary science studies. This would restrict him to part time involvement and he would only play 15 games.
Carlton would start the season well, winning 10 of its first 12 games and at that stage were top of the ladder. Its run of wins ended in Round 3 against Fremantle. Injuries would mount and some of Carlton's stars of 1995 would find the increased attention of being the reigning premier hard to deal with. By that stage a number of its stars were around 30 and age would start to catch up with some of them. It would only win half of its last 10 games to finish fifth, losing both the vital double chance and the right to host a home final. Forced to travel interstate for both its finals against the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears, Carlton failed to win either of its finals and made a rather rapid exit from the premiership race.
One of our main threats in 1995, the Bears would deliver on the promise that they demonstrated late last season and finish 3rd, whilst North would beat Sydney in a memorable Grand Final. Carlton would be left to lick its wounds after two poundings in the finals, and perhaps came to realise that the golden era of 4 straight finals campaigns (1993-1996) could be coming to an end.
Perhaps one of the sadder elements of Season 1996 was the death of the Fitzroy Football Club, who were merged with the Brisbane Bears at the end of 1996. With only 1 win, a percentage sub 50 and a list the Club could barely afford, the Fitzroy Lions would be forced to merge or die a horrible death.
The People of 1996Captain: Stephen Kernahan
Coach: David Parkin
Leading Goal-kicker: Stephen Kernahan- 56 goals
Best & Fairest: Stephen Silvagni
All Australian: Stephen Silvagni, Michael Sexton
Milestones200 Games (Carlton): Stephen Silvagni
200 Games (AFL): Earl Spalding
100 Games: Brett Ratten
50 Games: Brent Heaver, Ron De Iulio
Debuts: Aaron Hamill
Debuts (Carlton): Adrian Hickmott, Justin Murphy, Ben Sexton, Craig Devonport
Retirements: Barry Mitchell, Adrian Gleeson
Trades: Brent Heaver (Port Adelaide)
In addition, Justin Madden would not end up playing in the Navy Blue again, although he would be retained on the list for the 1997 season.