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  • Corey Mckernan

Corey McKernan reflects on his favourite North Melbourne Premiership

In Grand Final week (2021), Walk With Me Online founder and dual premiership player with North Melbourne reflected on his premiership medals in 1996 and 1999.

How do you choose your favourite? he asked.

1999 Premiership - Avenging for the Grand Final loss in 1998

The 1999 North Melbourne Football Club premiership was more a sense of relief after losing in 1998.

Anyone who has the talent to make the Grand Final is going to be a hard opponent and you’re never assured of victory. Carlton Football Club dramatically beat the red hot faves Essendon Football Club in the prelim final.

Essendon may have been tougher but as Denis Pagan says: “If your aunty had whiskers she’d be your uncle"!

I do remember running the lap when we ran out and thinking to myself 'you’ve done this before, you know what to do'. But sometimes feeling too assured isn’t a good thing!

It was strange. Kouta started on me -- effectively their trump card out of the game playing as a defender on me. Carlton’s best shot was jumping us early and with Kouta starting at half back. I’m sure Denis would’ve been pretty happy with this move.

Carlton started well and I needed to get a move on but had my surprise opponent Kouta following me everywhere! But move on I did, and in quick succession kicked a 65 meter bomb and then a banana from the boundary 2 mins apart to get the game well and truly back on our terms.

Once I’d kicked my 3rd early in the 3rd quarter, I started to think of kicking a bag and then didn’t kick another!!

I’d say the big moments' impact in 99 was the equal of the possessions game I had in 1996 Grand Final.

Players elevate their status on how they play in the biggest games and I’m fortunate that in 2 of the 3 Grand finals we played, I elevated mine.

1996 Premiership - The only gold Cup; one for teammates

On the 25th anniversary of the '96 flag it’s maybe just in front of 99 because we won a medal for teammates like Fairley, Laidley Crocker, Roberts, Scholl, Scott, etc.

After the disappointment of 94 and 95, we were on a mission in 96.

The Brownlow actually gave me the gift of one of the best weeks of my life; to be able to put everything aside and be able to be singled minded in the goal of winning a medal with and for my mates.

The week went something like this…

Monday was Brownlow. Received great messages from many people, but I was also looking after my knee at home doing quad exercises.

Tuesday training, Rocky and Duck gave me a McDonalds Brownlow which I’ve kept all these years. Getting something from my great mates meant as much as the real thing.

On Wednesday I had 50 mls of blood drained out of my knee and did discuss not playing, which I shut down pretty quickly. Without Harry (Unglik) I wouldn’t have played as he gave me the confidence to believe I could.

Thursday went to Royal Melbourne Show. Denis always said do what you usually do, so Matty Capuano, Stuart Anderson and I went to the Show! People couldn’t believe we were there, but we were keep our routine the same.

Friday was the Grand Final Parade. Denis had said no sunglasses because he didn’t want us thinking we were movie stars. We then had our usual Dom Camillo’s Friday lunch. Love Dom because whether you were going good or bad, he hung shit on you!

Saturday, Grand Final Day… As I left home I had Smashing Pumpkins “Today” and the words “ today is the greatest day” blaring as I walked out (and I’m pretty sure it was still on when we got home 6am the next morning!).

Conversation with Harry at 1/4 time after I was hit super hard in my knee. Denis lost his mind at us and said if I wasn’t right to get off. But the knock was the best thing that happened to me, because I realised if that’s the worst, then I’ll be right.

Then there was a passage of play from the center that maybe changed the game and also meant I was really back. Hit out, chase after it, Glenn Archer has ball spill into the air, I then belt it forward 30-40 meters for a Freeborn goal. Goosebumps! Sandy Roberts commentated: “Freeborn is there… around his body goes Freeborn and here comes North Melbourne.”

Still remember running around screaming in the last quarter “keep going. keep going”. It was only when Flossy kicked his goal I relaxed a little, but you still refuse to believe you’ve won it.


Siren goes and we are champions! I’m a Man United fan and when they won the title for the first time in 26 years in 92/93 I remember they played “We are the Champions“. And here the MCG played it and I don’t think they’ve ever played it since!! I nearly passed out in the forward pocket singing it that loud!

To have the world thrown at me at the beginning of that week was a gift. And to then come out and help us win the flag was something that is way bigger than an individual medal.

There is only one centenary year of the AFL and only one GOLD cup, and North Melbourne Football Club have it!

Join Corey on his live walk every Wednesday over Zoom or Facebook Live.

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