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Barrie Charles Robran
25 September 1947 (age 75)
Place of birth
Whyalla, SA (5600)
North Whyalla (1967)
State of origin
Hall of fame
South Australian Football Hall Of Fame, Inducted 2002
Best & fairest
North Adelaide 1967 (tie), 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973
Rodney Robran (Brother)Matthew Robran (Son)Jonathon Robran (Son)Maurie Francou (Brother-in-law)Ken Francou (Brother-in-law)
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Barrie Robran was arguably South Australia’s, some would say Australia’s, most gifted ever footballer. The bare statistics fail to do him justice: three Magarey Medals and seven consecutive club fairest and most brilliant awards during a 201-game career which also saw him represent his state on 17 occasions¹. Originally from Whyalla, Robran off the field was shy and unassuming; on it, he was an artist. Victorian Mike Patterson who coached Robran for much of his league career observed that “Barrie can match (any Victorian) in any phase. I’ve seen him do things that the best players over there have been unable to accomplish”.
Robran’s ‘finest hour’ arguably came during North Adelaide’s 1972 club championship of Australia final against Carlton when he performed with such brilliance that, on more than one occasion, opposition player Alex Jesaulenko - himself no mean footballer - broke into spontaneous applause. (Click here for a brief review of the match.)
In 1974, while captaining South Australia against the VFL at the SCG, he sustained a serious knee injury which, while not ending his career in a literal sense, effectively put paid to his genius, and meant that the sustained brilliance which had characterised his first eight seasons in league football would seldom be seen again. In 2001 that brilliance was accorded belated recognition by the AFL when Robran became the first (and to date, only) AFL Legend never to have played league football in the state of Victoria.
Perhaps the most succinctly apposite description of Robran was coined by "Advertiser" journalist and former West Torrens and state footballer, Geoff Kingston, who wrote simply that “Barrie Robran was a man in whom nature succeeded”.
Originally from Whyalla, Robran’s genius was evident from an early age. In 1966 he helped North Whyalla to a WFL premiership, and was a joint winner of the competition best and fairest award, the Whyalla News Medal. He played seconds football for North Adelaide during the 1966 finals series, and made his league debut in the opening round of the following season when he produced an awesome display of all round football brilliance to hit the headlines in the next day’s Sunday papers, a place of honour he would enjoy on numerous occasions over the ensuing eight seasons and more.
Author - John Devaney
1. Robran won his seven successive club champion awards between 1967 and 1973, although in point of fact he was originally placed second in the voting for the 1967 award, losing out on a countback to Don Lindner. The North Adelaide Football Club's Board of Directors later decided to rectify this perceived injustice by awarding Robran, and all other runners-up who were originally placed second on a countback, retrospective awards. (I am indebted to Bruce Pointon for alerting me to this, as well as for confirming that Robran's tally of interstate match appearances for South Australia was 17, and not 14 as suggested in some sources.)