In the 1940s he was a fatherless Australian rules prodigy; in the 1950s he was one of the best players of the era; by the 1960s and 1970s he had become a manager renowned for his colorful reprimands of his players and winning premierships.
More recently, Ron Barassi is probably best remembered for chasing down a man he had seen assaulting a young woman in St Kilda and tackling him to the ground.
It was New Year’s Eve 2008, when Barassi was 72 years old and almost capable of such noble deeds. He ended up taking it out on himself and left with broken ribs, various scratches and a medal for bravery.
He previously pulled a man out of a burning car and lost his spleen in a car crash while coaching at North Melbourne. He didn’t even know it until he read it in a newspaper. “Hero” barely begins to do it justice.
Ronald Dale Barassi, who has died aged 87, was officially an Australian rules football legend. One of football’s first celebrities, he is also recognized as an innovator, an inspiring coach and a magnificent player.
Ron Barassi, one of the AFL’s best-known and best-loved figures, has died aged 87. A minute’s silence was observed at Adelaide Oval ahead of Saturday night’s semi-final between Port Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney.
Barassi was dining at a St Kilda restaurant with his wife, Cherryl, and friends on New Year’s Day 2009 when a woman fell onto his table after being hit. He chased the man but then attacked himself.
Barassi is best associated with the Melbourne reds and blues, where he played 204 matches and won six premierships.
“The Melbourne Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of its favorite sons,” the club wrote on social media.
Club CEO Gery Pert said the AFL had “lost a giant” but “his spirit and impact will live on through the game he loved so much”.
“His legacy will forever be etched in the history of the game.”
He then played and then coached for Carlton, guiding them to a premiership in 1968, their first in over two decades.
Carlton chairman Luke Sayers said Friday night’s semi-final between Melbourne and Carlton “symbolized” the great man and the AFL was “privileged” to have him.
North Melbourne, where he later continued his coaching career, winning the club’s first two premierships in 1975 and 1977, said it was with “heavy hearts” that they remembered a ” football icon.
Brendan Gale, the CEO of Richmond – a club he turned down to accept a deal with the Blues – said what Barassi had done for the game could not be overstated.
“On behalf of Richmond FC, I express my condolences to the family, friends and fans of Ron Barassi.
‘A true giant of the game, Ron’s impact on the AFL and Australian rules football in general is immeasurable and he will be greatly missed. Rest in peace.’
Former St Kilda defender turned Fox Footy pundit Leigh Montagna said Barassi was perhaps the “most iconic name in our sport”.
Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto said Barassi was a “titan of Australian football whose influence spanned generations and inspired millions over the decades”.
Commentator Rohan Connolly added: “Ronald Dale Barassi was not only a champion player and master coach, he was an innovator, a deep thinker and an inspiring leader.
“He was also a wonderful, intelligent and funny man. Few, if any, will leave as lasting a mark on Australian football as he did. RIP Ron, and thank you.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Barassi, saying there was no more famous name in football.
AFL president Richard Goyder called him the most important figure in the game since the Second World War.
Barassi rose from on-field prodigy to premiership-winning coach in a career spanning four decades (1964 photo).
Born in Castlemaine, Victoria, to Ron Barassi Snr and his wife Elza, Barassi was predestined to follow his father to the Melbourne Football Club.
Ron Snr played 58 matches for the Demons and was a member of Melbourne’s 1940 premiership team.
Days after winning that grand final, he enlisted in the army and was sent to North Africa where he was killed in action at Tobruk in July 1941, aged 27.
The football club undertook to care for five-year-old Ron jnr and his mother and from the age of 16 he lived in a bungalow in the backyard of legendary Melbourne coach Norm Smith .
While Barassi was inextricably linked to Melbourne, the zoning rules that existed at the time gave Collingwood and Carlton the right to recruit him.
Melbourne duly put pressure on the VFL and Barassi became the first player to be subject to what became known as father-son rule.
Barassi played his first senior VFL match for the Demons against Footscray at the age of 17 in 1953.
Barassi quickly rose to become one of the best players of the 1950s and 1960s.
Within four years he became vice-captain of the club, taking over in 1960, the same year he and Melbourne won their fifth premiership in six years.
After 204 games in Melbourne, Barassi shocked the sport by accepting an offer to become captain-coach of Carlton in 1965. He played five seasons and 50 games for the Blues, serving in the premiership in 1968 as coach playing and in 1970 as a coach.
Barassi retired from football after the 1971 season to focus on building his office furniture company, only to return two years later for perhaps the most colorful, controversial and successful period of his career. coaching career at North Melbourne.
In 1973, North were the only club in the then VFL not to win the premiership.
They had finished at the bottom of the table with one victory for the 1972 season.
But club president and former player Allen Aylett and secretary Ron Joseph decided to do something and hatched a plan to win a premiership within five years.
At the heart of their plan was “buying” as many top players as possible and getting Barassi to coach them.
Thanks to the introduction of a short-lived new rule relating to player transfers, Joseph “bought” the core of a new team, his recruits including three VFL captains, Essendon’s Barry Davis, South Melbourne’s John Rantall and Doug Wade from Geelong. .
The buying frenzy also attracted star interstate players such as Malcolm Blight and Barry Cable.
In the first year under Barassi, North finished sixth and in 1974 they finished second, beaten by Richmond in the grand final.
The breakthrough came the following year, with Barassi masterminding a 55-point triumph over Hawthorn in the final.
Barassi and North’s champion team repeated the effort in 1977, winning the club’s second flag after drawing with Collingwood in the initial grand final, then winning by 27 points in the replay a week later .
This victory was the crowning achievement of one of the game’s great careers.
Barassi stands next to a bronze statue of himself which was unveiled in 2003 outside the MCG. The statue, made by Louis Lauman, is the third of 10 commissioned as part of Tattersall’s $1 million “Parade of Champions.”
Barassi then had brief coaching stints in Melbourne and Sydney and cemented his reputation as a great visionary of the game through his “Irish experiment” in which he recruited several players from Australian rules Gaelic football, including the champion of Demons Jim Stynes.
His 10th grand final victory also led Barassi to invent the 17410 mark – 17 grand finals for 10 top positions – which, along with the number 31 on his football jersey, always accompanied his autograph.
In 1996, Barassi became one of the first inductees into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, entering that pantheon as a “legend”. In 2006, he became only the third Australian rules footballer, along with Leigh Matthews and Ted Whitten, to be inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame. Fame.
This week, Bob Skilton became the fourth.
Barassi was named Victorian of the Year in 2009 and is commemorated in a larger-than-life bronze statue outside Gate 4 of the MCG.
In 2012, at the age of 76, he revealed, with usual good humor, that he suffered from dementia.
“I forgot,” Barassi said. “It’s no problem.”
Barassi was married twice, first to Nancy Kellett in 1957 with whom he had Susan, Ron and Richard; and to Cherryl Copeland in 1981.