Football icon Ron Barassi has died aged 87.
An outstanding player with Melbourne, winning six premierships, the Victorian finished his career with Carlton and went on to coach the Blues and North Melbourne to two flags apiece.
The Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend’s family announced his death in a brief statement on Saturday.
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“After a full and extraordinary life, Ronald Dale Barassi, aged 87, left us today due to complications from a fall,” the family said.
“He died peacefully, surrounded by loving family.
“We ask for privacy at this time.”
Barassi is expected to be offered a state funeral, with the MCG an option to host the memorial.
Just five years old when his father died in World War II, Barassi followed in Ron Sr’s footsteps to become a Melbourne premiership player.
He revolutionised football several times over and was recognised for his achievements on the field with a position in the VFL/AFL Team of the Century announced in 1996.
His stunning decision to join Carlton as a playing coach after the Demons’ 1964 premiership rocked Melbourne and kicked off a flag drought that would last 57 years.
“That was the hardest thing in football I ever did, really, to change clubs,” he once said.
“In fact I changed my mind a couple of times and it was nothing to do with frisk any extra pounds out of Carlton. I just thought I can’t do this.”
He won the 1968 premiership and turned football on its head in the 1970 grand final, urging the Blues to handball over and over again to come from 44 points down to defeat Collingwood.
Barassi coached Melbourne in the 1980s without tasting the ultimate success, though he would form a key part of the club’s celebrations after their 2021 premiership.
While he is intrinsically linked to the Demons, Barassi also left a lasting impact on the Kangaroos and Sydney Swans.
North Melbourne had never won a VFL premiership prior to his arrival as senior coach and rarely made finals.
Backed by a huge influx of talented recruits from around the country, Barassi almost instantly led the Kangaroos to five straight grand finals for two victories.
He had been out of the caper for almost a decade when he was tapped to help save the Swans, though he would move on after just three years.
Barassi revealed a dementia diagnosis in 2012, with typical good humour.
“I’m forgetful. It’s not a worry,” the then 76-year-old said.
The AFL community rushed to pay tribute to one of its true greats on Saturday.
Channel 7’s VFL commentary team mourned Barassi in its post-game coverage on Saturday, with Jason Bennett describing the legend as a “wonderful, wonderful man”.
“One of my greatest memories in the media is that I produced a show with Barass, we worked together for five years,” he said.
Campbell Brown said it was fitting that Carlton and Melbourne played off in the finals on Friday night.
“His two great clubs that he gave so much to,” the Hawthorn premiership player said.
“He was a great man, a legend of the AFL. We’re thinking of his family.”
AFL statement on Ron Barassi
AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder today lauded Ron Barassi as the most important figure in Australian football of the last 70 years since the second World War.
Barassi, 87, passed away in Melbourne today – one of 12 original Legends of the Australian Football Hall of Fame and gigantic figure across the country in the game’s history.
Goyder said that while Barassi’s extraordinary record of 10 premierships as a player and coach within the VFL competition made him a talisman for success, it was his vision for the growth of the game to be the dominant national sport that would define his contribution to football.
“When our game was largely based in the south and west of Australia and revolved around the state leagues, Ron Barassi was constantly ahead of his time pushing for national development and a national league,” Goyder said.
“A champion of Victoria who relished the battles against SA, WA and Tasmania at state level, Barassi saw the potential ahead if the game could unlock interest in New South Wales and Queensland and constantly pushed the game’s administrators to dream big, plan bigger and be prepared to risk dramatic steps into the unknown.
“He revolutionised the game as a player – created the position of ruck rover – built premiership success at clubs as a coach and then was our first great evangelist to take the game north and grow it to become what we have today,” Mr Goyder said.
“He was known all across Australia when football wasn’t always known.”
AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan said the best wishes and sympathy of all in football were with the Barassi family at this difficult time.
McLachlan said he been privileged to spend time with Barassi in his role as CEO and was constantly struck by his relentless enthusiasm for the game and its evolution.
“Ron Barassi always wanted to see the next development, the next step and the next achievement for footy, while loving the game and what it took to play at the highest level,” he said.
“He was fierce, challenging and determined and he loved most of all, the next contest for the ball, and watched games with an eye for the skills of the game and the courage and desire to play it well.
“Every time in recent years when we would see him at the MCG watching a match, our game was better for his presence and we have lost a hero of our sport.
“On behalf of our clubs, our players, our fans and the game of Australian football, 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.”
The Melbourne Football Club is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of its favourite sons, Ron Barassi AM.
A much-loved Demon and legend of the game, Barassi achieved an incredible six premierships across 204 games in the red and blue, leaving a legacy like no other.
Melbourne Football Club CEO Gary Pert acknowledged the passing of one of the game’s greatest names.
“Everyone at the Melbourne Football Club is extremely saddened to hear of Ron’s passing. We send our sympathies and condolences to Ron’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time,” Pert said.
“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.
“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 an integral part of the club’s golden era, achieving premiership victories in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1964, two of which as captain (1960 to 1964).
The No.31 was recognised for his contribution in 1962, awarded club Life Membership, and in 2001 when he was inducted in the Melbourne Football Club Hall of Fame. He was elevated to Legend status two years later.
He was named captain of the Demons’ Team of the Century, won two club best and fairest trophies and earned All-Australian honours on three occasions.
Finishing with 254 games (50 with Carlton) and 330 goals to his name, Barassi was later acknowledged with Legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
Embodying the Demon Spirit, Barassi will always be at the heart of the Melbourne Football Club, not only for all he achieved on the field, but also for his generosity, energy and friendship over more than 70 years.
The club extends its deepest condolences to the Barassi family, and to Barassi’s teammates and friends throughout a wonderful life. His legacy will live on proudly through the red and blue.
Ronald Dale Barassi will be remembered as a true icon of the game, whose contributions to the Melbourne Football Club, Carlton Football Club, North Melbourne Football Club and Sydney Swans Football Club will forever be etched in the hearts of fans.
His legacy will continue to inspire generations of players and coaches, ensuring that his name lives on as a symbol of excellence and dedication in Australian football.
Ronald’s passing leaves a void in the AFL community, but his spirit and influence will never be forgotten.
“Arguably our game’s greatest name, a giant of Australian Football, who left a legacy at every club whose doors he walked through the doors of, none more so than our own,” Carlton president Luke Sayers said.
“It was late 1964 that Ron donned the Navy Blue, and for the proceeding decades, the Carlton Football Club never looked back.
“The Captain-Coach of our Club for the drought-breaking flag in ‘68, followed by coaching what is considered the greatest victory of them all, the 1970 Grand Final comeback over Collingwood.
“Ron transformed the game and indeed the clubs who were privileged to be graced with his presence.
“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.
“On behalf of the entire Carlton Football Club, our most heartfelt condolences go out to the Barassi family and we thank them deeply for allowing us and our game the honour of having the great Ron Barassi as forever part of it.”
North Melbourne carries heavy hearts following the passing of football icon and the club’s first-ever premiership coach, Ron Barassi, earlier today.
Barassi was lured to Arden St out of retirement ahead of the 1973 season. He guided the Kangaroos to their first-ever VFL/AFL premiership just three years later in 1975.
That victory over Hawthorn was all the more remarkable considering the Roos had finished the 1972 season last on the table with just one win from 22 games.
The legend of Barassi grew larger two years later when his team overcame a 27-point three-quarter time deficit in a historic drawn Grand Final against Collingwood. The Roos claimed their second flag a week later in the replay.
During Barassi’s eight years at the coaching helm from 1973-80, North Melbourne played in six Grand Finals, winning two, drawing one and losing three.
The club missed the finals just once during his tenure, in his first year in charge in 1973.
Club president Dr Sonja Hood said Barassi’s legacy would loom large long after his passing.
“Ron was a giant of the game and for a time he was ours,” Dr 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. Vale Ronald Dale Barassi.”