HomeAustraliaOk Ron Barassi, the man who ruled Australian rules

Ok Ron Barassi, the man who ruled Australian rules

One of the reasons the Swans wanted Barassi was because his name recognition overshadowed any other manager or even potential player at the time.

He was, as a senior AFL official observed after his death, the first nationally recognized person in Australian rules football; If you didn’t know another name, you would have heard of Ron Barassi.

“He was an Australian before Australian football became Australian,” said Collins, who described “Barass,” the coach (Carlton), as “a hard task master” who insisted on setting up yellow jumpers for the teams. players who arrived late and that “could be conflictive.”

He also innovated and his mark as a “super coach” was established when he led the Blues from a 44-point half-time deficit against Collingwood in the 1970 grand final to win the premiership, in a match that confirmed the new supremacy of Carlton and the subsequent Collingwood “Colliwobbles” in the final.

Ron Barassi gives directions to Wes Lofts.Credit: Archive

Barassi’s half-time exhortation to keep playing and “handball, handball” in that game was seen as the birth of modern football and the weaponization of handball. If this legacy is questioned, the fact that it has been asserted for five decades is another sign of the RDB’s influence.

Barassi’s comprehensive approach to training—passionate confrontations with “Slamming Sam” Kekovich and his dealings with the eccentric Brent “Tiger” Crosswell, his stirring speeches and his mix of harsh words and love—was the subject of John Powers’ seminal book . Coachwhich still sits at the top of books written about the game.

Cameron Schwab, who dealt with Barassi in his two spells as Melbourne chief executive and was steeped in the game’s history (Ron returned to supporting Melbourne once his service with the Sydney Swans ceased in the early 2000s), he once said about the generous and depressed Barassi. earthly nature: “The thing about Ron is that he doesn’t know he’s Ron Barassi.”

This chimes with my own experience with Ronald Dale, as some of us liked to call him, when I was a humble sportswriter in The Herald and then the merged ones Herald of the sun in 1990-91. As a columnist, Ron liked to go to the office and chat with the staff, and even attended lunches; Far from projecting himself as important, he was always friendly, sociable, and intensely interested in whatever you did.

Barassi was a key figure in the first football expedition to Ireland in the 1960s and of course was instrumental in the Irish recruiting experiment in Melbourne in the 1980s which spawned the late Jim Stynes ​​and Sean Wight, pioneers of the legion of Gaelic footballers, now including AFLW players, who have jumped the codes.

Collins recalled that Barassi conspired with Fitzroy coach Bill Stephen in 1966 to draw a center square for a game to reduce congestion, and the teams agreed not to enter the square for center bounces. The league forgave them. Nine years later, the experiment became the norm.

Barassi was one of the fiercest advocates for the national expansion of a game that was followed obsessively in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, but alien to the northern states of New South Wales and Queensland, where rugby codes dominated. .

In 1978, historian Professor Ian Turner coined the term “the Barassi Line” to describe the geographical boundary between football-centred South Australia and rugby-centred North; this Mason-Dixon style line ran diagonally from southeastern New South Wales to the northwest of Queensland’s intersection with the NT.


Ron Barassi was the first football figure to transcend the line that Turner identified. And, partly thanks to his efforts, Australian rules football and the AFL have at least gained a considerable foothold in those territories.

Okay Ron. You have left the nation (and the only game that bears the nation’s name) much richer for your life.

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