JOHN Nicholls has been voted the greatest player in Carlton's 150-year history.
Carlton announced its five greatest players at its 150-year Celebration Dinner in Melbourne on Saturday night, with Nicholls edging out (in order of placing) Stephen Kernahan, Bruce Doull, Alex Jesaulenko and Stephen Silvagni.
A selection panel comprising Carlton premiership players Ian Collins, Adrian Gleeson, Ken Hands and David McKay, and club historian Tony De Bolfo was appointed late last year to decide the 12 greatest players in the club's history.
The players ranked sixth to 12th were unveiled by the Blues earlier this week and were (from sixth down): Craig Bradley, Robert Walls, Wayne Johnston, Geoff Southby, Greg Williams, Ken Hands and Chris Judd.
Nicholls told the Carlton function on Saturday night he was truly humbled to have been voted the Blues' best ever player, saying all of the top five had claims to the honour.
Nicholls was an imposing ruckman, who played 328 games from 1957-74 and kicked 307 goals.
One of the key figures in the Blues' golden late 1960s-early 1970s era, Nicholls was best known to many as 'Big Nick'.
Nicholls stood just 189cm – 22cm shorter than the tallest ruckman in the game today, Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands – but his enormous strength and immovable tree-trunk legs made up for his lack of height.
His rivalry with Geelong ruckman Graham 'Polly' Farmer took ruckwork to new heights in the 1960s, while Nicholls was also a natural leader, someone who could pull a teammate or opponent into line simply with an ice-cold stare.
Nicholls captained the Blues in 188 games from 1961-74, was a three-time premiership player (1968, 1970, 1972) and won a record five Carlton best and fairest awards (1959, 1963, 1965-67) – the medal presented to the Blues' best and fairest winner each year was subsequently named in his honour.
Nicholls captained the Blues to the 1970 flag and was captain-coach in 1972 when the Blues upset a heavily favoured Richmond team, Nicholls' tactic of all-out attack helping the Blues to beat Tom Hafey's high-scoring Tigers at their own game.
Nicholls coached the Blues from 1972-75 (the last season as non-playing coach) and was one of the 12 original Legends named when the Australian Football Hall of Fame opened in 1996.
Kernahan was one of the greatest centre-half forwards in the 1980s-1990s.
After crossing to Carlton from SANFL team Glenelg, Kernahan played 251 games for the Blues from 1986-1997 and kicked a club-record 738 goals.
Named captain at the start of just his second season, 1987, the South Australian captained the Blues in a record 226 games, including their 1987 and 1995 Grand Final wins.
Kernahan, who is set to step down as Blues president on June 23 after a six-year stint, won three Blues best and fairest awards (1987, 1989, 1992) and was named an All Australian an equal-record nine times.
Jesaulenko was one of the most electrifying and versatile players in the game's history, playing 256 games for the Blues from 1967-79 and kicking 424 goals. He later played 23 games for St Kilda from 1980-81 and kicked 20 goals.
Jesaulenko was capable of starring at full-forward – he kicked 115 goals in 1970 – in the midfield, or defence.
He played in four Carlton premierships (1968, 1970, 1972, 1979), captain-coaching the Blues to their memorable five-point flag triumph over old foe Collingwood in 1979.
Doull was one of the lynchpins of Carlton's defence over 356 games from 1969-86, and known for his trademark headband as much as his tight-checking defence and dashing counter-attack.
Doull won four Carlton best and fairest awards (1974, 1977, 1980, 1984), played in four premierships (1972, 1979, 1981, 1982) and won the 1981 Norm Smith Medal.
Silvagni was named at full-back when the AFL's Team of the Century was announced in 1996, after a career spent manning all-time greats such as Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall, Gary Ablett snr and Wayne Carey.
Although defence was where Silvagni played most of his 312 matches from 1985-2001, he was also capable of starring in attack and kicked 202 goals across his career.
Silvagni played in the Blues' 1987 and 1995 premierships, won two best and fairests (1990, 1996) and was named All Australian seven times.