The 1996 Ansett Cup Grand Final was the Saints first Premiership decider of any kind since the 1971 VFL Grand Final against Hawthorn. The excitement among the club’s supporters after a quarter-century of waiting was palpable with the large crowd at Waverley predominantly cheering on the men in Red, Black, and White. Carlton, their opponents on this night, had swept all before them on their way to winning the 1995 Premiership and entered the match on the back of 19 victories in a row. Despite the Blues impressive record, as the last team to defeat them, the Saints had reasons to believe they could claim their first piece of silverware in 30-years.
Within seconds of the opening bounce the Blues had set up the opening shot at goal, finding Brad Pearce from the games first centre clearance. The forward would miss his shot and his team woud miss their first three shots. While the Blues were nervous in front of goal early the same could not be said for the Saints who through Nathan Burke, Peter ‘Spida’ Everitt and Joe McLaren, kicked the first three goals of the game. Stephen Kernahan and Brad Pearce would answer with two goals for the Blues before Steven Sziller, Nicky Winmar, and Stewie Loewe blew the game open in time on.
With three of the first four goals of the second term, through Spida, Loewe, Joel Smith, the Saints opened up a 36 point margin. Matthew Hogg and Pearce would reduce the margin for the Blues before Loewe kicked his third for the match. It was a strong first-half effort from Loewe who had been named co-captain along with Nathan Burke earlier in the week to replace the retired Danny Frawley. Both skippers were having an impact for their team before Burke was left seeing stars in a second-quarter incident that saw him sit out the second half. Their opposite number, Stephen Kernahan, would reduce the margin to 25-points with a goal on the half-time siren.
After helping set up Joel Smith for a goal in the second quarter with a smart piece of work, Jason Traianidis would kick the first goal of the second half with an equally clever play. The 21-year-old’s soccer extended the margin to 30-points but stirred Carlton into action. Quick goals to Brent Heaver and Ben Sexton saw the Blues close within 18-points for the first time since the opening quarter. Rather than retreat into their shells, the young Saints answered the challenge with a withering burst. First Aussie Jones, then Jayson Daniels scored to restore the five-goal margin before Spida and then Loewe with two completed an extraordinary run of six goals in 11-minutes.
While it would be bookended with goals to Stephen Kernahan, the Final term was a coronation ceremony for the young Saints. Smith and Loewe added to their respective goal tallies to see the former finish with two and the latter with six before future Bulldogs Coach Luke Beveridge completed the rout for the new Night Premiers. In extraordinary scenes, Nicky Winmar was awarded the Michael Tuck Medal and Stewart Loewe, Nathan Burke and Stan Alves the Ansett Cup surrounded by jubilant Saints fans who had invaded the arena. It was the perfect end to a night that will be long remembered by those fans lucky enough to be there and those watching on from home.