Blues pay tribute to controversial Elliott

John Elliott died just hours after Carlton appointed Michael Voss as his new coach.

The importance will not be lost on anyone. “Jack” Elliott was known to have ruthlessly sacked coaches during his tumultuous reign at Carlton.

The Blues paid tribute to their oldest president, who died Thursday at the age of 79.

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

Elliott was president when Carlton won his most recent posts as prime minister 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 tenure from 1983 to 2002.

As with his professional life, Elliott’s presidency at Carlton was marked by extreme successes and failures.

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

But he was impeached in 2002 on Remembrance Day, just hours after the AFL accused Carlton of two salary cap violations.

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

In 2003, the grandstand was renamed.

So, as the Blues honored Elliott’s unmistakable contribution on Thursday night, it marked the end of a complicated relationship.

“I’m really in shock. I knew John was struggling with his health, but I thought the great man would live forever,” said Stephen Kernahan, the club’s longest-serving captain and also former president.

“He was a beloved man and he was very good with the people of Carlton. He may have polarized a few of them, but whatever people thought of him, there was no doubt of his love for Carlton.”

Unsurprisingly, Elliott frequently clashed with the VFL / AFL hierarchy.

Indeed, he was one of the leaders of a 1984 proposal to establish a dissident Australian national league.

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

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

“Despite the challenges faced by the club during some of these difficult years, John’s passion and love for his club has never wavered,” Sayers said.

“We have to remember the many accomplishments during his time at the club – the return of (Robert) Walls and Parkin, and the prime ministerial posts they subsequently won; the recruiting of Kernahan, (Craig) Bradley and (Greg) Williams; the pride of the sweater and the love of Prince Park.

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

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