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Former Carlton Blues president John Elliott dies

Former Carlton Blues boss and federal president of the Liberal Party John Elliott has died 10 days before his 80th birthday.

The news was first confirmed by his son, 3AW radio host Tom Elliott, on Thursday night.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Dorman Elliott,” he said.

“He died Thursday evening at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond after a short illness.

“Dad will be greatly missed by his four children Tom, Caroline, Edward and Alexandra. Their children Henry, Sebastian, India, Ava, Lottie and Mathilda will remember forever their ‘Grandpa Jack’.

“Also in mourning are John’s brother Ross, sister-in-law Jenny, former partner Joanne and second wife Amanda. They are joined in grief by numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren and other close relatives. Vale Dad.”

Elliott was the former Federal President of the Liberal Party and was Blues president for a record 20 years, leading the club to two premierships in 1987 and 1995.

“I’m truly in shock. I knew John was battling with his health, but I thought the great man would live forever,” former Carlton captain Stephen Kernahan, who was a part of those Premiership-winning sides, said of Elliott.

“He was a loved man and he was very good to Carlton people. He may have polarised a few, but whatever people thought of him there was no doubting his love for the Carlton Football Club.”

In a lengthy obituary from Carlton posted on their website, Elliott was described as its “longest-serving president and perhaps its most polarising”.

THE OBITUARY FROM CARLTON FC ON JOHN ELLIOTT

“Elliott, the former Federal President of the Liberal Party once touted as a future Australian Prime Minister, was the unmistakable face of Carlton through a record 20-year presidency which surpassed Sir Kenneth Luke’s 18 years in office,” the statement read.

“Replacing Ian Rice as President at the tail end of the back-to-back Premiership seasons of 1981 and ’82, the autocratic Elliott and his board of directors presided, for the most part, over a period of on-field and off-field prosperity.

“Immortalised as the cigarette-smoking, scotch-swilling ‘Rubbery Figure’, the larger-than-life Elliott saw his beloved Blues triumph in the Grand Finals of 1987 and ’95 – the latter affording the club its 16th piece of silverware, at the time more than any other.

“On Elliott’s watch, a new grandstand bearing his name was built by the north-eastern wing to cater for the corporate heavyweights of the country who’d significantly contributed financially to the club through ‘The President’s Men’ – a coterie personally championed by Elliott, the one-time head of Elders and the Foster’s Group.

“On matchday luncheons, Elliott would welcome football identities and VIPs to his dominion, then take his place at his designated seating area in prime position for the first bounce. There he’d open the sliding glass, light a cigarette, and take great pleasure in flicking the ash onto the heads of unsuspecting opposition supporters filing past on the concourse below.

“In the immediate aftermath of a stirring Blues victory, more often than not back then, Elliott would lead Members in a rousing rendition of the club’s theme song, over clinking beer glasses on the first floor of the Carlton Social Club (George H. Harris Stand). Just as the players of his day could walk the walk, ‘Big Jack’ talked the talk.

“In 1994, Elliott was party to negotiations for the ground’s naming rights arrangement with the communications conglomerate Optus – which in turn afforded Carlton the financial wherewithal to build the Legends Stand at the Garton Street end of the ground.

“Under Elliott, Carlton furthered its reputation as a powerhouse both on and off the field – “the best in the business” as he proudly declared with genuine conviction.

“But his presidency would ultimately end in ignominy with his resignation on Remembrance Day 2002 – on the very day the club was first charged by the AFL for illegal player payments – and on the end of a season in which his beloved Blues became the last of the VFL’s foundation clubs to take the wooden spoon.

“Elliott claimed he had no knowledge of any rorting. In the end, his moniker was removed from the grandstand and renamed the Carlton Heroes Stand as a mark of respect to the football club Members who pay off the club’s League-imposed salary cap fines which totalled almost $1million.

“Fiercely committed to his club and generous to a fault with his players, Elliott found loyalists in the likes of Kernahan and Koutoufides, but he also found enemies in others.

“Never one to shirk an issue, he also took the fight to rival entities and the game’s governing body. In clubland for example, he insisted that Essendon be stripped of its 1993 Grand Final victory over Carlton as punishment for its own salary cap discrepancies.

“As for city hall, Elliott best voiced his disproval when he memorably declared: “No-one barracks for the AFL . . . they barrack for Carlton and Collingwood”.

“In September 1984, Elliott convened a clandestine meeting of VFL club Presidents at his Mt Macedon retreat Sefton, at which the concept of a breakaway Super League competition was discussed.

“The concept never gained traction, but the fact that the meeting took place reflected the view of a number of club Presidents of the day that the VFL had adopted a “Big Brother” approach to what had become the football business.

“To the end of his Presidency he was at war with the League and its commissioners – a war that he (and by association his club) ultimately lost. He never forgave the AFL commissioner for conveying by way of a phonecall the demise of Princes Park as a League venue after 118 years.

“Through the dark winters of the 20th century, as a once great club struggled to find its way, Elliott’s great love for Carlton endured – and he was there for the final game in May 2005, when ‘Kouta’ handed the final matchday footy to ‘Big Nick’.

“One tale told by Tom Elliott on a Ghosts of Princes Park Tour relates to that very match, when Elliott was invited back to the President’s pre-game Luncheon – ironically convened by Ian Collins – in a nook of the grandstand that once bore his name.

“Tom recalled his father lighting a customary cigarette in the room at a time when smoking laws were finally invoked, but through the course of the match refused an attendant’s repeated requests to butt out his ‘ciggy’.

“When the frustrated blue coat ultimately returned with reinforcements to evict the smoke-puffing former Prez from the room, the final siren sounded on the historic final contest – which then prompted a gleeful Elliott to puff smoke into the hapless attendant’s face and bellow: ‘This is no longer an AFL venue, the smoking laws no longer apply’.

“John Elliott died in the Epworth Hospital after a short illness. Elliott’s first wife Lorraine, a former Victorian state parliamentarian for the Liberal Party, predeceased him in 2014. He is survived by his four children – 3AW Broadcaster Tom, daughter Caroline, son Edward and daughter Alexandra.

“The former Carlton President is also survived by his second wife Amanda Elliott (later the first female Chairperson of the Victoria Racing Club.)”

New Carlton president Luke Sayers also shared his condolences to the Elliott family and reflected on his impact at the club.

“John Elliott led the Carlton Football Club for almost two decades and through an extremely successful era,” Sayers said.

“Whilst much has been said and written about the end of John’s presidency, tonight is a time to remember the many achievements during his time at the club.

“The return of Walls and Parkin, and the premierships they subsequently won; the recruitment of Kernahan and Bradley and Williams; the pride in the jumper and the love of Princes Park.

“John remained a passionate Carlton man, right throughout his life. He never stopped wanting to see the Old Dark Navy Blues succeed.

“Tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to a man who loved this club. Vale Jack.”

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