Parkin pays tribute to 'unique' Elliott

·3-min read

The last conversation David Parkin had with John Elliott was a four-hour lunch to discuss what to do about Carlton.

Naturally, it would involve a board takeover.

Parkin, who coached the Blues to their most recent AFL premiership in 1995, has remembered Elliott as "a unique human being".

Carlton's longest-serving president died on Thursday, aged 79.

"It was a joy to be with him - mind you, he was planning his next assault on Carlton," Parkin told AAP of their lunch at Melbourne's Savage Club a few weeks ago.

"He was putting a new board together, with me as coach, which was very interesting.

"It was quite a funny day.

"He had a massive impact on my life."

To hear Parkin speak of Elliott is to recall Humphrey Bogart's quote from the movie Casablanca: "(he's) just like any other man, only more so".

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

"We all have our strengths and weaknesses and John was like no other," Parkin said.

"He polarised people in the truest sense of that word.

"There were those who loved him dearly and those who hated everything he stood for - that's John."

Carlton were never so powerful than during Elliott's reign, from 1983 to 2002.

But when he was deposed, on Remembrance Day, the club was deep in debt and about to be hit with massive AFL penalties for salary cap breaches.

At one stage, Elliott was barred from Carlton.

The Blues have not made a preliminary final since his reign.

It was also fitting that Elliott died only a few hours after Carlton appointed Michael Voss as their new senior coach.

"Big Jack" was notorious for sacking coaches.

"John hired me and fired me and hired me again - at least the last time, I escaped without being fired," Parkin said.

Parkin recalled being reappointed on the Monday before the 1985 grand final, then sacked on the Thursday when Robert Walls became available.

"(I was) pretty furious, I suppose, pretty upset - he let me get to the door and said 'Parko, I will be ringing you a few years down the track, you'll be the right bloke to come back and coach the club again," he said.

"I did say 'pig's arse' and walked out the door, most offended."

Sure enough, Parkin returned as coach in 1991.

Their relationship was often tempestuous - Parkin was mortified with Elliott sledged Essendon publicly ahead of Carlton's legendary 1999 preliminary final triumph.

"That happened almost on a weekly basis," Parkin recalled.

Reminded of his own famous temper, Parkin confirmed the blowups he had with Elliott were epic.

"I would have liked to have recorded them and play them back - for Carlton people especially, they would have been fantastic," he said.

While never easy to work with, Elliott was always positive and if Parkin could argue his case for something at the club, the president made sure it happened.

"He had a huge expectation of people, but he was clever enough, intelligent enough to know what would be necessary and how long it would take," Parkin said.

"In my life, he's probably the most unique individual I've ever worked for - and very, very good to me."

And above all else, Elliott loved his Blues.

"He was absolutely desperate to do something about returning it to its former glory," Parkin said.

"I must admit, I thought John would live forever.

"It just came as a massive shock."

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