IT was the exclusive Carlton photo opportunity 150 years in the making.
Stephen Kernahan called it “one of the proudest moments” in his time at Carlton. Alex Jesaulenko admitted the experience gave the normally unflappable champion goosebumps.
And John Nicholls deemed it an honour every bit as worthy as the countless accolades he has won throughout his football life.
This week, for the first time, the Blues were able to bring together the five men judged as the greatest footballers in the club’s long and proud history — Kernahan, Nicholls, Jesaulenko, Bruce Doull and Stephen Silvagni.
As part of Carlton’s 150th birthday celebrations, a panel of experts has named the best 12 players to have worn the Navy Blue. A list of sixth to 12th best has already revealed by the club, with the order of the top five to be announced tomorrow night at a gala celebration dinner.
The Herald Sun was on hand for the iconic image of the five living legends who collectively have played in more than 1500 games, kicked almost 1700 goals, and played in a total of 15 premierships.
“It’s humbling to be even here with these blokes,” Kernahan said as he assembled the group in the old Gardiner Stand at Visy Park.
“I couldn’t be any prouder today, not just for myself, but for the Carlton Football Club.
“It’s been bloody hard getting everyone together, but I am so happy that we were able to do it.
“I’ve had a lot to do with ‘Big Nick’ (Nicholls) over the years; I played with Bruce for a year; I was coached by ‘Jezza’ and I was his captain; and SOS is a premiership teammate.
“I’m just so proud that we were able to get them all here for this.”
The normally reclusive Doull, 63, won’t be at the 150th anniversary function tomorrow night at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre as he will go in for hip surgery early next week.
Carlton’s Five best players (L to R) Stephen Silvagni, Bruce Doull, Alex Jesaulenko and Stephen Kernahan make there way down the steps, June 11th 2014. Picture: Colleen Petch
But he made his way back to the club this week for the first time in many years.
Jesaulenko also has been an infrequent visitor in recent years, but admitted to feeling pride on his return to the ground this week.
“I thank the people who chose us to be in the top five; it’s great to be in such great company,” Jesaulenko, 68, said.
Nicholls said Carlton’s proud history of winning premierships and producing great players was almost unrivalled, despite the frustration it had felt since its last flag in 1995.
The 74-year-old AFL Legend was particularly pleased to see Doull back at the club.
“I had a lot to do with ‘Doully’, playing with him and coaching him, and Jezza was the same,” Nicholls said. “They were great clubmen and sensational players.
“I played against Stephen Kernahan’s father, and the Kernahans have been great friends of mine for many years. And Stephen Silvagni was a member of the AFL team of the Century.
“Our greatest players have all played in their part in making the club what it is.”
Carlton’s Five best players (L to R) Stephen Silvagni, Bruce Doull, Alex Jesaulenko, John Nicholls and Stephen Kernahan sit in the old grandstand., June 11th 2014. Picture: Colleen Petch
328 games, 307 goals
Honours: Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend, AFL Team of the Century, Carlton Team of the Century, five-time best and fairest winner, premiership captain and premiership captain/coach
251 games, 738 goals
Honours: Australian Football Hall of Fame Inductee, Carlton Team of the Century (captain), three-time best and fairest winner, 11-time club leading goalkicker, premiership captain, holds the record for the most games as a VFL-AFL captain (226)
312 games, 202 goals
Honours: Australian football Hall of Fame Inductee, AFL Team of the Century, Carlton Team of the Century, twice best and fairest winner
356 games, 22 goals
Honours: Australian football Hall of Fame Inductee, AFL Team of the Century, Carlton Team of the Century, four-time best and fairest winner
256 games, 424 goals
Honours: Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend, AFL Team of the Century, Carlton Team of the Century, best and fairest winner, three times club leading goalkicker, premiership captain/coach
The club has already revealed players ranked from 6-12 — 6. Craig Bradley, 7. Robert Walls, 8. Wayne Johnston, 9. Geoff Southby, 10. Greg Williams, 11. Ken Hands, 12. Chris Judd.