Robert Walls being appointed as Coach. In fact, Walls and previous Coach David Parkin simply swapped jobs, after Walls had been Fitzroy Coach in 1985 and Parkin was appointed to that position for 1986. The club had been struggling to match the power teams of the past 3 years, with Essendon and Hawthorn playing off in the previous three Grand Finals. This led to the introduction of a number of key recruits, including Stephen Kernahan, Jon Dorotich and Craig Bradley.
Carlton had shown increased form towards the end of the 1985 season, and encouraginly maintained that improvement in 1986. The club wouldn't lose two games in a row in 1986, the first time that the club achieved this since the premiership year of 1982 and, while winning six games by over 50 points, it also eliminated the 50 point plus beltings that it had been receiving over the past few seasons. Another positive sign was that the club managed to win two finals in 1986. In the previous three seasons the club had played four finals for four losses.
The improved showing by the club led to a 17 win, 7 loss record and third place on the ladder. In the first week of finals action Carlton played Sydney in the Qualifying Final. The Blues had the game in control by half-time, leading by 31 points and while Sydney managed a last quarter comeback the result of the game was never in doubt, Carlton winning by 16 points.
The Blues entered the first Semi Final against Hawthorn having lost their previous seven encounters against them, having not beaten them since 1983. The game was close up until three quarter time, with Carlton maintaining a narrow lead all day, and but for inaccurate kicking might have had the game sewn up by the last change. A 6 goal to 3 final term saw us kick away from the Hawks, running out 28 point winners and gaining a weeks break before the Grand Final.
Hawthorn would beat Fitzroy in the Preliminary Final to setup a rematch of the Semi Final for the Grand Final. Unfortunately for the Blues, the Hawks were rampant, winning by 42 points - 16.14.110 to 9.14.68. This was our first Grand Final loss since 1973, with 3 Premierships won in between.
Despite the loss, two players would make their presence felt; Craig Bradley who would share the Best & Fairest in his debut VFL season, and Stephen Kernahan who would top the goal-kicking list not only for 1986, but every season until 'Kouta' topped the table in 1997. Another debutante in the Navy Blue, Mil Hanna, would damage his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in Round 1 and miss the rest of the season.
Coach: Robert Walls
Leading Goal-kicker: Stephen Kernahan - 62 goals
Best & Fairest: Craig Bradley and Wayne Johnston
Bruce Doull - 359 games (club record at the time)
Debuts: Dean Strauch, Adrian Gleeson, Peter Motley, Stephen Kernahan, Peter Kenny, Mil Hanna, Jon Dorotich, Craig Bradley
Debuts (Carlton): Bernie Evans
Reserves Premiership in this season, providing a busy September for Blues fans.