Man looks emotionally into distance outside MCG

AFL royalty praise ‘icon’ Barassi as one of the sport’s most influential figures

The Australian football community has embraced in a collective mourning after the death of Ron Barassi, one of its greatest sons.

Barassi died aged 87 on Saturday following complications due to a fall, his family said.

Barassi played more than 250 VFL games for Melbourne and Carlton, before then becoming a coach.

In total, he won 10 premierships as a player and coach for Melbourne, Carlton and North Melbourne.


David Parkin, who won four V/AFL premierships as a coach between 1978 and 1995, called Barassi “the most significant influence to the game of Australian football”.

“I think Barassi probably influenced the game, certainly in my lifetime, more than any other one single person,” he told ABC Sport.

“His leadership in all circumstances, both on and off the field.

“He had such a passion for what he believed in. There’s no doubt he changed the modern game.

“We were taken into an area of preparation and playing which started to involve everybody on the ground that we now understand.”

Mick Malthouse, who won premierships with Collingwood and West Coast as a coach, said Barassi could never be replaced.

“He was an extraordinary man. It’s a very, very sad moment for football people,” he said.

“We’re talking about a legend that will never be replaced.

“He had such a bearing on young kids and people growing up that you could never forget him.”

Outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said: “Ron Barassi has contributed more than an individual could possibly give to our sport and we give our deepest condolences to Cherryl, all members of the Barassi family and their many friends.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took to social media to honour the first man to be awarded Legend status in the AFL Hall of Fame.

“Ron Barassi was a legend in every sense of the word. A fearless player and leader, a visionary coach and a tireless champion for the growth and success of Australian rules football,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“Ron’s name and his legacy will be remembered as long as footy is played.”

Former clubs honour their legendary figure

Barassi’s playing days are best remembered for his time at Melbourne, where he won six premierships.

He played 204 games in the red and blue and was part of the club’s golden era from 1955 to 1964.

Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert described Barassi as an “icon” who will always be synonymous with Australian football.

“Ron was a much-loved character and friend to so many of us around the club, which is why he will be so deeply missed,” Pert said.

“Ron was more than a player and coach. He was an icon of the game, and a true Melbourne person. His legacy will forever be etched in the history of the game.

“The entire football community has lost a giant, but Ron’s spirit and impact will live on through the game that he loved so dearly.”

Barassi was the coach for North Melbourne’s first two premierships in 1975 and 1977.

He was pulled out of retirement in 1973 to take over the head job at Arden St, coaching the side to six grand finals.

Ron Barassi, pictured with North Melbourne legend Barry Davis, won two premierships as coach of the Kangaroos.(AFL Media via Getty Images: Michael Dodge)

North Melbourne president Sonja Hood said Barassi’s legacy would loom large over the sport.

“Ron was a giant of the game and for a time he was ours,” Hood said.

“He famously guided us to our first-ever VFL/AFL premiership with a win over Hawthorn in 1975 and he backed that up with another flag in 1977, this time with a win over Collingwood.

“But he was much more than a coach – he was a man of the game and the game will forever owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

“He gave his all for every club he represented – first Melbourne, then Carlton, North Melbourne and finally at Sydney.

“For us, Ron will always be our first premiership coach and he’ll always be a North Melbourne legend.”

Carlton Football Club president Luke Sayers said Friday night’s epic semifinal between the Blues and Melbourne “symbolised” Barassi.

“Ron transformed the game and indeed the clubs who were privileged to be graced with his presence,” Sayers said.

“How fitting that just last night, two clubs in which he left such an impact should play out a final that typified the toughness, ferocious competitiveness and passion that symbolised so much that was great about Ron.”

‘His heart was with Melbourne’

Fans have also paid tribute to Barassi in the wake of his passing.

A moment of reflection was held before the semifinal between Port Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney, with a massive round of applause ringing around Adelaide Oval prior to the silence.

Man looks emotionally into distance outside MCG

Geoff Miles rode his bike to the MCG when he heard that AFL legend Ron Barassi had died. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca )

At the MCG, Melbourne Demons supporter Geoff Miles got on his bike and rode to the ground, after hearing the news of Barassi’s death.

“He was just a great Melbourne man and a great man for football and he just did everything for the footy club and it’s just such a great loss,” Mr Miles said tearfully.

“Ron’s exploits just aren’t surpassed.

“He went to Carlton and North Melbourne and did some great things, but I think Ron always said that his heart was with Melbourne.”




Author: Russell White