Former Kangaroos legend Danielle Laidley has laid bare the affect Wayne Carey’s infamous affair with teammate Anthony Stevens’ wife Kelli had on the once-proud club.
The 55-year-old, who played alongside Carey and Stevens in a 99-game career at the club, also coached the Kangaroos for 149 matches – and admitted the saga ‘shattered the group’.
Laidley, who has transitioned to female since being born as Dean, has returned to the footy world since being outed during a leaked arrest in 2020 that Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton described as ‘appalling’.
Close mates Carey, Stevens and Laidley won the 1996 grand final with North Melbourne, but just five years later their relationships, and the club as a whole, were left in ruins.
Former Kangaroos player and coach Dani Laidley has laid bare the affect Wayne Carey’s infamous affair had on the club
Wayne Carey (left) and Anthony Stevens (right), pictured in 1999, fell out after the former had an affair with his teammate’s wife
Laidley, who was coaching elsewhere at the time but still very close with Stevens, said the affair ‘shattered the club’, and was on the front page of a prominent Melbourne newspaper for an incredible 14 days straight.
‘Long friendships – forged over a decade in blood and sweat and laughter and tears – are suddenly over. In one evening the heart is ripped out of the North Melbourne Football Club,’ she wrote in the Herald Sun.
Carey’s affair with Kelli emerged in 2002, after an encounter at party hosted by club champion Glenn Archer attended by Kangaroos players.
Anthony Stevens with then-wife Kelli, who was uncovered as having an affair with Stevens’ teammate Wayne Carey in 2002
Kelli followed Carey into a bathroom to discuss their sordid relationship, which started weeks earlier.
Stevens and Carey played together for North Melbourne from 1989 to 2001 before the betrayal was uncovered.
At the time Carey was also married, to his first wife Sally McMahon. Stevens was even the groomsman at the wedding.
Wayne Carey and first wife Sally McMahon on their wedding day in 2001. The next year Carey would be sprung having an affair with a teammate’s wife
The affair was far from the first, or last time, Carey would garner more attention for his behaviour off the field than on it.
The 272-game legend who won two premierships and seven All Australian jumpers in fact has an entire section on his Wikipedia page titled: ‘Domestic violence, assault, arrests, drug abuse and scandals’.
Laidley said Carey, who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest players of all-time, was essentially ‘enabled’ due to a lack of punishment by the industry.
Dani Laidley (who went by Dean at the time) played and coached at the Kangaroos over a 16-year career at the club
‘Of course Wayne (Carey) is no stranger to that limelight. He’s been flirting with trouble his entire career, starting a fight here, pinching a breast there,’ said a fed-up Laidley.
‘He’s the best player in the competition, which is reason enough for an outsized ego, but in his case it’s also fed and watered, enabled by players and coaches and administrators.
‘When Wayne was 21, Denis Pagan (former Kangaroos coach) would read us the riot act about our recovery after a night match. ‘Don’t you boys go get on the piss this weekend,’ he would say. ‘You know there’s only one player who can get away with that: number 18.’
‘There were rules for us and there were rules for Wayne. He was too good to reprimand for the bad,’ lamented Laidley.
Wayne Carey (centre) clashes with former teammate Anthony Stevens after being forced to move to the Crows in disgrace following his affair with Stevens’ wife
After leaving the club in disgrace following the affair, 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.
In a twist, Stevens was named captain of the club following Carey’s departure.
In an interview with veteran journalist Mike Sheahan on Fox Footy in 2015, Stevens said he told his ex-teammate to ‘stick it’ at the time, but was also disappointed in Carey’s behaviour following the betrayal.
‘It’s the one thing he has never done,’ Stevens said, when asked by Sheahan if Carey has apologised.
‘He has never actually gone out of his way to say sorry – for whatever reason.’
Wayne Carey (left) and Anthony Stevens (right) celebrate a win as teammates in 1999, a year the Kangaroos won the premiership
Carey did eventually apologise the following year – a full 14 years on from the sordid event.
He then rehashed the infamous incident while appearing on SAS Australia earlier this year, telling Chief Instructor Ant Middleton that the affair was a huge moment in his life.
‘It’s haunted me for over 20 years. I was in self-destruction mode. You know, I guess my life started to unravel,’ he said under interrogation.
The incident then came back into the public conscious yet again when the pair were at a Melbourne pub for a 1996 premiership reunion, when Carey ‘went at’ Stevens according to SEN’s Sam Edmunds.
Time doesn’t appear to have healed old wounds, with the former teammates allegedly needing to be separated after Carey ‘went at’ Stevens.
Wayne Carey with current partner Jessica Paulke at a social event
Dani Laidley waving to the crowd at the official function recognising the Kangaroos 1996 premiership earlier this month: which Stevens and Carey fell out at yet again
Witnesses alleged Carey accused Stevens of ‘talking behind his back and telling people he couldn’t be contacted and to not bother trying to catch up with him, but then being fine in-person’.
Carey later insisted he ‘was worried about Stevo (Stevens)’, who he said ‘wasn’t well’.
It was reported Stevens didn’t attend the official function at Etihad Stadium the next day because he was ‘shattered’ about the exchange, though Carey insists it was because he was too hungover.
Yet again Wayne Carey has the last word.
Perhaps Laidley’s assertion Carey was ‘enabled’ by the footy industry is spot on.
The Carey-Stevens sex scandal
1989 – 2002: Wayne Carey and Anthony Stevens are teammates at North Melbourne.
March 2002: Carey’s affair with Kelli Stevens is uncovered after the pair are sprung by Stevens’ wife Anthony in the toilet at a house party. Carey flees the country for Las Vegas
2003: Carey is traded to Adelaide in the fallout of the affair. Stevens is made captain of North Melbourne
2006: Despite initially moving past the affair, Carey separates from wife Sally. Stevens had been a groomsman at their wedding in 2001
2008: Anthony and Kelli go their separate ways despite overcoming the cheating scandal for six years
2015: In an interview on Fox Footy, Stevens slams Carey for never going out of his way to apologise for the affair
2016: Carey FINALLY offers a public ‘heartfelt apology’ for the affair to Stevens, 14 years after the scandal. The pair have a brief catch-up
February 2022: Appearing on reality show SAS Australia, Carey admits his life started to ‘unravel’ after the affair
August 2022: Carey and Stevens allegedly have to be separated during an altercation at a premiership reunion. Stevens then declines to attend official celebrations the next day