'Very sad': AFL mourns death of former Carlton president John Elliott

·6-min read
Pictured here, former Carlton president John Elliott died at the age of 79.
Former Carlton president John Elliott died just short of his 80th birthday. Pic: AAP

The AFL community is paying tribute to the memory of John Elliott after news the former Carlton president died at the age of 79.

Family of the often controversial Elliott confirmed that he passed away in Melbourne’s Epworth hospital, just 10 days short of his 80th birthday.

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Once touted as a potential prime minister, Mr Elliott was a Liberal party elder and served as federal Liberal treasurer and president from the 1980s.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Elliott was a "forthright man who said what he meant and meant what he said".

"He lived a big life. It was an authentic Australian life," he said on Friday from the United States.

"Big lives always have their critics, make their fair share of mistakes, but mostly, there is something about them that capture their times. Such people are leaders. John Elliott was such a leader."

The former Blues figurehead had been unwell after suffering a recent fall, with family members confirming his passing on Thursday.

“Sadly, my father, John Elliot, died just a couple of hours ago,” son Tom Elliott said on 3AW radio.

“He had been ill for a few weeks. He had a bad fall a little while back and had been at the Epworth hospital at Richmond. We got the very sad news this afternoon that he had taken his last breath.”

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Dorman Elliott,” the family 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 died only hours after Carlton appointed Michael Voss as their new coach and just two days before the Melbourne Demons take on the Western Bulldogs in the AFL grand final.

The significance will be lost on no-one. "Jack" Elliott was notorious for ruthlessly sacking coaches during his tumultuous reign at Carlton.

Bombastic, dictatorial and confrontational, the gravel-voiced former Blues boss is a controversial and fascinating figure in AFL history.

Elliott was president when Carlton won their most recent premierships in 1987 and 1995.

But Carlton legends Alex Jesaulenko and David Parkin were among the coaches who felt the full force of Elliott's wrath and were shown the door during his term from 1983 to 2002.

As with his business life, Elliott's Carlton presidency was marked by extremes of success and failure.

Under his watch, the Blues were an AFL powerhouse and a stand at their Princes Park was named after him.

Seen here, former Carlton president John Elliott during his time with the Blues in the AFL.
John Elliott was at the helm for Carlton when the Blues won their last premiership in 1995. Pic: Getty

But he was deposed in 2002, on Remembrance Day, just hours after the AFL had charged Carlton with two breaches of the salary cap.

Days later, the Blues were hit with massive financial and draft penalties. Voss takes over at a club that has not finished higher than fifth since that devastating punishment.

In 2003, the grandstand was renamed.

So, as the Blues honoured Elliott's undoubted contribution on Thursday night, it marked the end of a complicated relationship.

"I'm truly in shock. I knew John was battling with his health, but I thought the great man would live forever," said Stephen Kernahan, the club's longest-serving captain and also a former president.

"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 Carlton."

AFL world pays respects to an iconic figure

Not surprisingly, Elliott frequently clashed with the VFL/AFL heirarchy.

Indeed, he was one of the ringleaders of a 1984 proposal to establish a breakaway national Australian Rules league.

Once the plan was revealed to the then-VFL, it was a catalyst for the league transforming itself into the national AFL.

New Carlton president Luke Sayers said Elliott would be remembered as someone who gave his all to the club.

"Despite the challenges faced by the club throughout some of those tough years, John's passion and love for his club never wavered," Sayers said.

"We must remember the many achievements during his time at the club - the return of (Robert) Walls and Parkin, and the premierships they subsequently won; the recruitment of Kernahan, (Craig) Bradley and (Greg) Williams; the pride in the jumper and the love of Prince Park.

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

Tributes rolled in across social media following news of Elliott's death, as the footy world paid tribute to the "larger-than-life" icon.

with AAP

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