Stephen Scott Kernahan
1 September 1963 (age 59)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 22y 211d
Last game: 33y 363d
Height and weight
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 102 kg
Hall of fame
Australian Football Hall of Fame (2001); South Australian Football Hall Of Fame (2002)
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When the definitive history of football in the 1980s and 1990s comes to be written, the name of Stephen Kernahan is sure to feature prominently. Not just a great player, but arguably one of the finest on-field leaders the game has ever seen, 'Sticks', as he was known, played more than 400 games of league standard during an illustrious and eventful career that spanned 17 seasons. He began that career with Glenelg in 1981, playing 136 games and kicking 290 goals, and securing the club's best and fairest award on three consecutive occasions. He also topped the Bays' goal kicking list twice, besides putting in a best afield performance in the 1985 Grand Final victory over North Adelaide. In 1983 he polled 43 votes in the Magarey Medal, eight more than the eventual winner Tony Antrobus who received his Medal because Kernahan had incurred a suspension during the season.
Even more noteworthy than his time with the Tigers, however, was Stephen Kernahan's 12-season stint at Carlton, where his impact was immediate, pronounced and enduring. He topped the Blues' goal kicking ladder in his debut season of 1986, the first of 11 such achievements in succession. In 1987 he won a club best and fairest award and was a member and captain of a premiership team. He retained the captaincy until he retired, helping himself to another best and fairest award in 1992, and the team to another flag - one of the most emphatic ever achieved in the history of the V/AFL - three years later.
Mere statistics tell only part of the story, however. Arguably the true measure of the man lay in his on-field impact, both as player and skipper. Tall and somewhat thinly built, but strong, Kernahan had few peers as an aerialist for much his career. His kicking, if not strictly textbook, was accurate, and he booted a total of 738 goals - a Carlton career record - during his 251-game V/AFL career. Kernahan was also deceptively quick for a big man, and his ground skills were excellent. He was a pivotal figure in South Australian state of origin teams for many years, making a total of 13 appearances, and booting a record 47 goals. Kernahan achieved official All Australian selection in 1985, 1986 and 1988, and was chosen in the AFL's equivalent team twice.
Author - John Devaney