It is the bitter feud that Kangaroos games record-holder Brent Harvey says set the club back “four or five years”.
Anthony Stevens and Wayne Carey were the two pillars a dominant North Melbourne side was built around throughout a successful run during the 1990s.
Both men arrived at the club in 1989 and soon established themselves as mainstays in coach Denis Pagan’s side.
Carey was the Kangaroos’ skipper while his best mate, Stevens, was the vice-captain for North’s two premierships in 1996 and 1999 before things turned extremely sour.
In the back end of 2001, Carey and begun an affair with Stevens’ wife, Kelli, an affair that would eventually tear apart the club.
According to Carey, the flirting started in November 2001 when he, Kelli Stevens and his wife, Sally, found themselves in a hotel room after his brother’s wedding in Wagga.
“We were sitting in chairs near the bed where Sally was asleep, just talking and drinking.
“It was then, very late at night, that our conversation suddenly developed a distinctly sexual connotation.
“I can’t remember exactly what was said but there was no mistaking the tone. It was suggestive, and we found we were flirting with each other.
“That night of Sam’s wedding triggered something. We became more flirtatious from then on. After having been just friends for so long, suddenly this suggestive, sexual teasing entered the relationship.”
According to Carey, the pair first hooked up in January 2002 after Stevens came to his apartment when his wife wasn’t present.
“Sally and I were in the process of moving apartments in January and one day Kelli came over when Sally wasn’t there,” he said.
“That was the first time we kissed. It was only brief. But straight away I thought to myself, “F—, what the hell have I done?”
“We both knew that it was wrong. She knew and I knew, because we had talked about the ramifications.
“Despite all of that, within a couple of weeks we ended up sleeping together. In the new apartment owned by Sally and me.”
Carey and Stevens thought they were past the affair when the Kangaroos skipper had said they needed to move on before things came to a head at teammate Glenn Archer’s house a few weeks later.
The affair was essentially made public when Stevens followed Carey into the bathroom during the party.
“I couldn’t believe she’d do that. Walk into a bathroom after me in front of 20 or 30 people,” he said.
“Was she completely mad? Didn’t she understand what she’d just done? It was only when I reflected on it later that I thought maybe she wanted people to know about us.
“I decide there was nothing to do other than go out and face the music. So I unlocked the door and walked out, as innocently as I possibly could. I walked back to where I had been standing and picked up my beer. As I started drinking it, I thought: “Bloody hell, maybe no one saw what happened.” For a brief moment, I felt relief.
“Then Arch walked up with a grim look on his face and said: “Duck, what the hell’s going on? Something’s happened, come with me.”
“So I followed him as he took me down to the garage where Stevo and Kelli were having an argument. I could see Stevo was furious. He’d seen his wife follow me into the toilet and that, I guess, had confirmed all his worst fears and suspicions. When he saw me he said: “What the f— do you think you’re doing?”
“Then Sally rushed down from the party and wanted to know what had happened. I tried to explain but she burst into tears. She said she knew this was happening all along, she could tell something wasn’t right.
“The party started to degenerate into pandemonium: Sally was crying, Kelli was crying, Stevo was upset, there was shouting and tears.”
The affair resulted in Carey quitting North Melbourne prior to the 2002 season, with Stevens awarded Kangaroos’ captaincy.
Archer, Stevens and Carey briefly threatened to come to blows when Carey first faced North Melbourne in Adelaide colours during his comeback season in 2003 season.
Stevens and Carey mended fences in the years since the affair, meeting ahead of the 20-year reunion of the Kangaroos’ 1996 premiership win in 2016, before the relationship hit the rocks once again.
Twenty years after the affair, the pair clashed at a Kangaroos premiership reunion when Carey accused Stevens of talking about him behind his back and acting “two-faced”.
The clash reportedly left Stevens “shattered”, and he did not take part in the club’s motorcade around Marvel Stadium along with the other premiership greats from the 1996 team as a result.