The "Perfidy" of Ron Barassi
How can you believe in anything any more?
I almost didn't write this week. I was upset and miserable. I have been through an almost unbearable shock. How can I tell you? Ron Barassi has applied for the job and been accepted as playing coach of Carlton. Sydney fellows wouldn't understand the perfidy of this. There are two things that good fathers do for their sons in Melbourne, neither thing more important than the other, but both must be done on the date of birth and not a day later. That is, put him down for a good school and put his name on the waiting list for the Melbourne Cricket Club.
The MCC, dating from 1838, is the oldest club of any kind in Victoria. We invented the game of Australian Rules football back in 1856 and Carlton was an upstart club that wasn't heard of until 1864. This is why we look in horror at the departure of Barassi.
Barassi, until last week, was the greatest Demon of them all. He was Mr Football in Melbourne. When the electoral office puts out sample forms they never use a name like John Doe or John Smith. They put Ron Barassi. If you ask a Melbourne newspaper man for the greatest news story of 1964 automatically he will say: -Ron Barassi's move to Carlton."
You should have seen some of the letters that have been in the papers. Here's a couple from -The Sun:
"A staunch Demons supporter, I cried when I learned of Ron Barassi's appointment to Carlton. If Barassi feels that he is too good for Melbourne, then why go to a lower club? The victories won't be as frequent nor will the praise and sympathy from his supporters, Carlton and Melbourne alike.— Demons Supporter (Melbourne),"
"What does Ron Barassi think he is doing? How about the thousands of Demon fanatics who have defended him when attacked, backed him up when he is outspoken and supported him when down? — Red and Blue (Burwood)"
But that's not all. Here in Melbourne we love our budgies and it has always been our custom to make our little ones loyal footy supporters. So there have been all sorts of letters from budgie lovers. One lady at Lilydale reported how patiently she taught her budgie to sing "Come on Ron". There was another lady in the city who went even further. She taught her budgie to say: "Come on the Demons", -Kick a goal Barassi", and "Good kick Barassi".
What are these people to do now? As I understand it budgies can be taught only at a very early age, and it is too late for them to turn now. I hate to say it, but 1 think these budgies will have to be strangled.
And there's this problem. Every little kid in Melbourne as soon as he can walk is given a football sweater by his loving parents. Three out of four of all sweaters would be exactly correct Melbourne football sweaters. And of the umpteen thousand little Melbourne football sweaters, nine out of 10 would have the number 31 on the back. This is the number always worn by Ron Barassi in battle. It was also worn by his late father, Ron Barassi Snr, a former Melbourne rover.
Sweaters are one thing, but it goes further. They also make these football jackets for dogs in club colors. There was a shop here called Poodles Paradise and very nearly all the jackets they sold for divine poodles were Melbourne jackets with 31 on the back. Can you imagine all the unstitching that will have to be done?
Even now I find it all hard to believe. There have been many coaching offers before. Some time back there was an offer from Woodville in South Australia, but Ron made it clear that he wouldn't go under £5000 a year. Ron makes £1000 to .£1500 a year from his TV and radio appearances alone. Then, last December 10, Carlton made Barassi this offer of playing coach for three years at £3000 a year; not bad for a part-time seasonal job. We were happy to note next day that he knocked the job back. After all, why should he want it? He is assistant coach at Melbourne. he is heir apparent to Norm Smith, who has been the brilliant coach for 14 years. He has only to bide his time to collect the most noble job in football.
Then, incredibly, right on the eve of Christmas, he changed his mind. Despite the fact that he had some powerful rivals like Murray Weideman, the former captain of Collingwood, Carlton appointed Barassi as their new coach, fast as you can bat your eyelid. Why did he do it? I have thought and thought about this one. Was it mere hunger for money? Barassi is 28, still at the height of his powers and still the inspiration and power of the Demons.
I remember all too well the 1963 disaster, the trial of Ron Barassi when he met the tribunal at Harrison House on a charge of striking John Peck (right) of Hawthorn. You might say it was the biggest court case of 1963. Over 250 people waited outside on the result and eve, newspaper assigned three men to the job, to say nothing of radio and TV. Well, Ron was suspended for four matches, which put him out for the finals and unquestionably cost Melbourne the premiership. This mustn't happen again.
There's the theory that all this is part of a demonic plot. Ron is going to Carlton just as a coach. If he is a success, in three years' time he will be just beautifully ripened to take over as coach from Norm Smith on his retirement.
But already there have been threats front the Melbourne committee that never will they clear Barassi to Carlton. They couldn't afford to have such a player against them. It is all too much for me. I don't understand anything any more. How can I sustain a worthy loathing for the opposition if my idols start romping around from team to team?
Title: The "Perfridy" of Ron Barassi
Date: January 9,m 1965
Publisher: The Bulletin