1977, Ian Thorogood was replaced as coach for the 1978 season by triple Brownlow Medalist and St Kilda champion Ian Stewart. Unfortunately, ill health claimed Stewart, and he was unable to continue in his position after round 3. Serge Silvagni then took over as a caretaker Coach for another 3 games until Alex Jesaulenko was appointed Stewart's permanent replacement. Stewart was eventually appointed the South Melbourne coach in 1979, a position he would hold for three seasons.
Club President George Harris seemed initially reluctant to appoint Jesaulenko, a reluctance that Jesaulenko himself seemed to share after initially rejecting the position. When Jesaulenko finally took over after Round 6, the Blues were second last, barely ahead of last placed Footscray on percentage with only one win from the six games. Jesaulenko seemed to be an instant hit with the players, one the club won its next three games to 7th on the ladder. In fact, Jesaulenko would guide the team to a 13 win, 3 loss finish to the season under his coaching and would lift the club to fourth on the ladder, only 1 game behind Collingwood in third and a double chance in the finals.
Carlton entered the Elimination Final against Geelong having previously had two close games with the Cats earlier in the season. In Round 2 Geelong had prevailed by 14 points, with the Blues turning the table and winning by 10 points in Round 13. Carlton kicked 6 goals to 1 in the first quarter to establish a five goal lead at the first break, a margin that the team comfortably maintained all the way to the final siren to win 15.15 (105) to 9.18 (72).
The Blues would encounter Collingwood in the second Semi Final, but were jumped by 4 goals to 1 in the first quarter. The team battled all day to reign in the deficit, finally going down by 15 points in front of 91,933 people at the MCG, easily the second highest crowd of the finals series behind the Grand Final. One can only wonder at what might have been if Jesaulenko, a club champion in his playing days, had been appointed coach for the start of the season.
Coach: Ian Stewart / Serge Silvagni / Alex Jesaulenko
Leading Goal-kicker: Rod Galt - 49 goals
Best & Fairest: Trevor Keogh
Peter Fitzpatrick, Peter Halsall, Peter McConville, Warren 'Wow' Jones
Debuts (Carlton): Denis Collins
Under 19's Premiership for the 5th time in 1978.