Dick Pratt in the 1952 U19's. Circled. Richard Pratt, whose unswerving commitment to the Carlton Football Club as a player, sponsor, director, president and patron spanned nearly 60 years, and whom history will unquestionably record as the man who saved Carlton, has died after a long battle with prostate cancer.

He was 74.

Richard’s presidency of his beloved Blues lasted just 499 days. But few club presidents before or since could justifiably lay claim to having achieved more in office, or of making such a profound imprint on a place and its people.

Carlton President Stephen Kernahan, the key figure who somehow convinced “The Cardboard King” to take on the job in February 2007, has conveyed the sympathies of the entire Carlton Football Club community to Richard’s devoted wife of 47 years Jeanne, son Anthony and daughters Heloise, Fiona and Paula.
Jeanne and Richard on their wedding day - 9th June 1959.
Kernahan said that Carlton was forever indebted to Richard for having delivered the once-great sporting institution from the darkest days in its otherwise illustrious 145-year history.

“He made things happen at this Club – giving inspiration, leadership and above all else – belief.

“Even now I feel like I’m still holding the fort for him,” said Kernahan, who assumed the presidency from Richard when the latter stood down in June last year.

“It’s a very sad day for the Carlton Football Club family. Dick Pratt was the man who saved Carlton. There’s no doubt about it.
Richard Pratt as President.jpg
“He’s as true a Carlton bloke as you will get and what he did for our club in its time of need, when he had other important things in his life and didn’t have to do it, showed his love for Carlton.

“All I can say is that when Dick became President, it was as if everyone at Carlton came out of the hailstorm and into the sunshine. That’s how we all felt.

“February 9, 2007 will be remembered as one of the most significant days in the long and proud history of our Club, it was the day it was announced that Richard Pratt was the new President of the Carlton Football Club.”

It is in his role as President of the Club that Richard will be best remembered, but his contribution is far greater than that. Originally a player with Carlton’s Under 19 and reserves teams; he also served on both the Carlton Football Club and Carlton Social Club Boards and of course supported the Club in numerous ways for many years including sponsorship.

At the time of his death he was the Patron of the Carlton Football Club.

Articles: A Fan's Perspective of the week we lost Mr.Pratt

Blueseum: Pratt's Blueseum Biography | Pratt's Blueseum Image Gallery

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love. ~Madame de Stael

Though dad has been dead for almost a decade, memories of times spent with him linger still. They always will. Each trip to a football match brings some of the memories flooding back.

Standing with dad and his friends on a Saturday morning in the deep shadows of the front bar of a pub in Sydney road, the pub is dark, it smells of beer and cigarettes. Outside, the winter sun is just breaking through the black clouds. I’m about seven and I am drinking a raspberry lemonade while the men, his friends, speak in loud voices of football and especially of the game ahead.

The mad rush to the ground, always arriving at 2:10, never early, often late. The mad crush beneath the old clock, the cans as stilts, dad and Pop cheering each Carlton goal, the damp smell of woollen coats, the smell of men, and the voices, angry and joyful. The shout that filled the stands at each Carlton goal.

The sparkle in dad’s eyes after a win. His little jig of victory. His laugh when the goals came flooding in.

Waiting in the car with a brother or two as Melbourne sinks into a wintry dusk while dad has a couple of celebratory beers before we head home.

Standing beside him and my brothers at the ‘68 conquest against Essendon. Sharing his sadness in ’69. His laughter in ‘70, his anger in ’73. The many flags, the many great wins at Princes Park. Singing the song until our throats went hoarse.

Game after game, me as a seven-year old turning into me as a teenager and then a young man. Dad as a young man with Pop, then growing older, Pop aging until he could no longer make it to the ground and then dad getting older still.

The last match I went to with dad was again Melbourne when Brent Heaver went berserk kicking five goals against us. Dad older, grey haired, struggling up the stairs at the M.C.G. and then us sitting, watching our beloved Blues lose. No jig that trip, just a philosophical shrug. Dad had seen many flags, he could handle a loss or two.

Each week at the football I have a flashback to dad, a moment where I might see his hand raise a glass, or a hint of his voice crying out ‘yes!’ or his feet doing a little jig.

To me, Carlton and dad go hand in hand. So does Pop and Carlton and mum and Carlton. It was with mum after all where it all began. She was a mad Bluebagger and dad was madly in love with her so he gave his heart to Carlton too. He’d meet up with Pop at the Lygon street hairdressers where Pop worked and the two of them would rush off to see another game at The Park.

Carlton and my brothers, Michael who left the Bluebaggers because the rebel must always chose an alternate strip.
Pat who’d take me as a kid, the run from Royal Park Railway station to the ground, the memories of his talks after each game, his love of Kekovich and Racehorse Hall. Pat saying ‘he’ll kick this’ and Brian and I looking at each other with a silent groan of despair - a certain miss coming up. Brain and I meeting up in the social club for a few jars, his passion, his assurance when he knows we’ve got it won.

Carlton is shared with my nieces, and with my nephews and of course, my beloved son, who sits beside me so often, who has endured the hardest start and is now seeing the shining road opening up again. Carlton and family. They are so much a part of who I am.

And through it all the thread of dad, his voice, his laughter, his passion for the club and this great game.

When things turned dark and I began to fear for this club, it was as much about the loss of those memories with dad, the loss of sharing this club with family as anything to do with football itself.

So I must say this week, when the sadness of Richard’s Pratt’s death has filled the club, I must say, thank you Mr Pratt. Thank you for saving this club, for letting me keep those weekends with my son and my brothers, with my niece when she comes, with my nephews too. Thanks for letting me keep my history, my memories of dad at the ground beside me. Each glimpse of the jumper is another glimpse of his face, his voice, and his smiling eyes.

Richard Pratt may have been many things, I do not know, I never met the man. There is a single truth I know. For me, and for others like me, he was the man who gave me back my club. The man who saved my memories, my traditions.

I am sad that he has passed away, and my heartfelt best wishes goes out to his family. Having lost my father and my grandfather I know the pain that is involved. I understand death and the grief it brings to a family.

I am sad and I am forever in his debt. We all are. Richard, for me and mine, will always be a Great Carlton Man. He was our Lionheart, our champion on the white horse. He saved this great club; he gave it back to all of us, the Carlton family. We each have separate families, different lives, we are many strangers who have never met and yet – standing next to someone at the football when they cheer and I cheer we look at each other and we know, despite all the differences, we are family. We are part of the burgeoning Bluebagger army. This Saturday we will all be wearing a black armband in Richard’s memory.

To Richard and his family then,

Thank you - forever.

Source: 'The Ghost', carltonfc.com.au, April 29, 2009