An AFL legend has opened up on the sex scandal that sent shockwaves through the football world, destroyed life-long friendships and divided a club.
North Melbourne superstar and captain Wayne Carey walked out on the club before the 2002 season when his affair with the wife of teammate Anthony Stevens became public.
Carey and Stevens’ wife Kelli had been busted in a bathroom together by teammates at a birthday party, including Stevens himself.
AFL games record holder and Kangaroos legend Brent Harvey this week praised Stevens’ handling of the saga – and revealed he initially believed the claims were untrue.
AFL superstar Wayne Carey (left) repaired his marriage with wife Sally (right) after the sex scandal. The marriage ended in 2006
‘It was mind blowing,’ Harvey, 43, told TAB’s Inside 50 podcast with Crawf and Quinny.
‘When 9/11 happened the first 17 pages of the Herald Sun was about 9/11 (and) when that happened I think the first 19 pages were about that.
‘At the time it was huge and you look back and that was a time you probably don’t want to go through again as a football club.’
The two-time premiership star said the controversy set the Kangaroos back five years, despite the club going on to make the finals in 2002.
‘We lost not only our best player but our captain, probably one of the greatest players to ever play our game,’ Harvey recalled.
‘That’s hard to digest as a young kid that’s trying to win flags and do everything. It was big, the press conference, there was people on top of cars, there was people in trees taking photos of a group that did nothing wrong.’
Anthony Stevens with then-wife Kelli in happier time at Wayne Carey’s wedding reception in 2001. Carey and Kelli’s affair was revealed a year later
Harvey previously detailed his disappointment in his 2016 biography book Boomer, saying Carey’s actions were like ‘stabbing a brother in the heart’.
‘I couldn’t accept that a club captain and superstar player could betray his best mate in the most despicable of ways,’ Harvey wrote.
The affair was uncovered just 14 months after Carey married his long-time partner Sally McMahon with Stevens by his side as a groomsman.
The couple mended their relationship and had a daughter before parting ways in 2006.
Stevens also reconciled with his wife Kelli and had two children together before they split in 2008.
Harvey regards Stevens as one of his best mates and praised him on being the ‘bigger person’ in the saga,’
‘This is why I love Stevo so much because he’s about everybody else,’ Harvey told the podcast.
‘He’ll shake Wayne’s hand and say G’day to him at the function because he doesn’t want the 16 other blokes sitting in the corner thinking ‘have a look at this’.
‘I don’t think they’re ever going to be best mates, that’s my opinion, I actually don’t know if Stevo speaks to him or not, but he’s a bigger man than I would ever be.’
North Melbourne legend Brent Harvey (right) has opened up about the sex scandal that divided the club in 2002. He’s pictured with his wife Shayne (left)
Harvey still speaks to Carey when their paths cross while commentating games.
‘We’re not best mates but I’m not best mates with some of the older guys anyway because I had my own clique group that I was with,’ he said.
‘I see him and say g’day. I’m also a massive Anthony Stevens fan, absolutely love the bloke, probably my favourite teammate I’ve ever played with so it was tough.
‘The 10 year reunion wasn’t great, but then the 20 year reunion was OK.
Stevens came under fire from his ex-wife when he opened up about the affair in 2014 and how he confronted Carey after that incident.
‘He said a couple of words, I told him more or less to stick it and had my piece and walked out,’ Stevens told Fox Footy.
‘I had known for a while, but until you can actually catch the individuals, it is pretty big speculation to query someone about that.
‘In the end, I was the one that actually caught the two of them that night.’
Wayne Carey married long-time partner Sally McMahon in 2001. The affair with his best mate’s wife made headlines just 14 months later
Teammates Wayne Carey (left) and Anthony Stevens (right) were best mates until the pair fell out over the affair in 2002. They’re pictured celebrating after the 1996 grand final
Stevens also revealed Carey never apologised to him.
‘He has never actually gone out of his way to say sorry – for whatever reason,’ Stevens added.
The pair finally made up during a 15 minute catch up in 2016 ahead of the club’s 20-year reunion of the 1996 premiership.
After leaving the Kangaroos in disgrace and fleeing the country for Vegas, Carey joined the Adelaide Crows in 2003, and took the field against his former teammates in an fiery clash that saw him come face-to-face with Stevens.
Stevens played 292 games across 16 seasons for North Melbourne, and won two AFL premierships.
Carey played 272 games with North Melbourne and Adelaide before being forced to retire due to injury in 2004.
He won two premierships and was voted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Anthony Stevens reconciled with wife Kelli (right) before the marriage broke down in 2008. The couple are pictured after Stevens’ last AFL game in 2004