K rock Football

‘Gunner’ remembered

Geelong great John Scarlett marks Hawthorn star Peter Hudson in a game during the 1970s. (Geelong Advertiser Image)

TRIBUTES have started to flow following the death of the former star Geelong defender John Scarlett.

Scarlett, who played 183 games for the Cats, died on Wednesday morning at the age of 72.

Geelong Past Players’ Association president Ray Card, whose career crossed over one season with Scarlett in 1977, says he was a standout during a lean period for the club.

“When I came down to Geelong in ’77, he was a very well-established player who had played 170-odd games by that stage,” Card said.

“He and guys like Ian and Bruce Nankervis and Jack Hawkins were the glue that held the backline together.

“And ‘Gunner’ was a real character and much loved by all the boys down at the club.”

While known to all as ‘Gunner’, Scarlett also carried the nickname ‘Yippee’ among his teammates.

“He had a really dry wit and was a character on the field,” Card said of the Geelong Hall of Fame member.

“He used to sledge a bit, and he’d get the ball and have a couple of bounces with a “yippee, yippee, look at me go” sort of thing.”

Recruited from St Joseph’s College, Scarlett debuted in Round 11, 1967 and played three consecutive games before going out of the side.

He then returned to the team for the preliminary final win over Carlton and held his spot for the following week’s nine-spot grand final loss to Richmond.

However, it would be as close as Scarlett would come to a premiership, with a preliminary final loss to eventual premier Essendon in 1968 as far as the Cats would go.

Following the 1977 season, Scarlett joined South Melbourne and played 29 games in two seasons at Lakeside Oval.

His death comes less than a month after former teammate Kevin Higgins lost his battle with cancer.

Scarlett linked up with Higgins after his VFL career at GFL club Newtown & Chilwell in the early 1980s, helping the Eagles to premiership success in 1982, ’85 and ’86.

Scarlett showed he was no slouch up forward, winning the GFL goal kicking award with 104 majors as a 38-year-old in 1985.

He later coached at junior level at St Joseph’s Football Club, guiding a team featuring son Matthew – who would go on to play 284 games at Geelong – to the 1994 West Coast league Division 1 under-15 premiership.

Another son, Jack, is carrying on the Scarlett legacy at Joeys having made his senior debut against Lara in Round 8.

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