Wes Lofts, a member of Carlton’s drought-breaking Premiership team of 1968, a long-serving Chairman of Selectors through the halcyon years of the 1970s and 80s, and a pivotal figure at Princes Park in the second half of the 20th century, has died after a long illness.

He was 71.

Lofts first came under the notice of discerning Carlton judges as a 17 year-old chasing the leather with the club’s Under 19s team. It was 1959, and Lofts’ size, strength and aggression saw him fast-tracked as a footballer at Princes Park.
1967 - Wes Lofts & John James.
The 6th round match of 1960, against Geelong at Kardinia Park, would be the first of Lofts’ 167 senior appearances for Carlton through to 1970, and though he would forge his handsome reputation as Peter Barry’s successor at full-back, he would complete his debut at centre half-forward alongside the late John Benetti.

Wearing the No.20 later claimed by his successor at full-back Geoff Southby, Lofts proved his worth as a big game player in keeping Ken Fraser goalless in the ’62 Grand Final. The following year, he earned Victorian representation.

Lofts’ spirited play under coach Ken Hands continued under the watch of the latter’s much-heralded successor, captain-coach Ron Barassi, and in ’67 he again earned state selection.

The following year, in a low-scoring windswept Grand Final once more involving Essendon, Lofts earned the bespectacled Geoff Blethyn as his opponent when injury forced Fraser out. Blethyn booted four of his team’s eight goals, but four of seven from Brian Kekovich got Carlton over the line in the big one for the first time since ’47.

Lofts lived the dream in ’68, but two years later, as the club’s vice-captain, would be overlooked for quite probably the greatest Grand Final of them all, against inner city arch rival Collingwood. Peter McKenna, whose fleet footedness had troubled Lofts in earlier contests through the 1970 season, would earn Kevin Hall as his opponent on the day that mattered most, when Carlton somehow overcame a half-time deficit of 44 points to win by 10.

Lofts later gave the game away at the tender age of 27, but his most influential years at Carlton were still before him. As Wrout’s successor as Chairman of Selectors in 1978 and a prominent member of the Board of Directors as Vice-President, Lofts, a successful businessman in his own rite, was central to virtually every major policy decision taken by the club.

It was he who encouraged Ian Rice to stand for the Carlton Presidency in 1980, and it was he who facilitated the involvement at board level of both John Elliott and Richard Pratt.

Lofts' influence was also felt in recruiting. He had a hand in landing recruits of the ilk of Melbourne's Greg Wells and St Kilda's Val Perovic - both Carlton Premiership players - and it was he who issued the famous edict “Get me another Royce Hart”, as the club moved heaven and earth to wrest Stephen Kernahan from Glenelg’s grasp.

In February 1987, Lofts was with Robert Walls when Kernahan was called to the Princes Park inner sanctum to be told he was the new captain of Carlton (and ultimately the game’s longest-serving captain). Two years later, Lofts had the decency to call Kernahan, then working on the floor of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, to tell him that Walls had been sacked as coach.

In his book “Sticks – the Stephen Kernahan Story” penned in 1997, Kernahan wrote of Lofts: “he has always been considered one of the powerbrokers and a few of the boys have often referred to him as ‘JR’ . . . on match committee (he) was certainly a players’ man. But you had to earn your stripes with Wes”.

In short, Lofts will be rightly remembered as a bona fide powerbroker through an era which netted the club the Premierships of 1981, ’82, ’87 and ’95 at a time when Carlton, both on and off the field, could be considered the best in the business.

In 2002, four years after he was inducted into the Carlton Hall of Fame and shortly before Elliott was voted out of office, Lofts stood down from the Carlton board.

But his love for his club never waned.

Blueseum: Lofts' Blueseum Biography