Ronald Dale Barassi Jnr
27 February 1936 (age 86)
Place of birth
Castlemaine, VIC (3450)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 17y 78d
Last game: 33y 79d
Height and weight
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 87 kg
State of origin
Ron Barassi Snr (Father)
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only
AFL: 6,330th player to appear, 245th most games played, 154th most goals kickedMelbourne: 741st player to appear, 23rd most games played, 12th most goals kickedCarlton: 768th player to appear, 334th most games played, 209th most goals kicked
Melbourne’s dynamic leader who ruck roves and who can really lift a side when they’re in trouble. Rests forward.¹
Few individuals have had as much overall impact on the sport of Australian football as Ronald Dale Barassi. An innovator as both player and coach, if he did not quite revolutionise the game, he certainly extended and improved it. After a stuttering start to his senior VFL playing career in 1953, a season which saw him attempt, largely unsuccessfully, to fill a number of positions, Barassi came into his own the following year when Melbourne coach Norm Smith opted to use him as a medium sized ruckman, or ruck-rover. While this was scarcely the innovation it has latterly come to be described as, it was nevertheless unique in the VFL of the time, with most teams preferring to use two big ruckmen in tandem.
Once Barassi settled into his new role, however, it was not long before rival teams were forced to adopt a similar approach to Smith's Demons, especially when playing Melbourne, for while the role of ruck-rover had not actually been invented for Barassi, it might as well have been. Aggressive, determined and dynamically robust, Ron Barassi was capable, almost singlehandedly, of taking opposition teams apart, and while there were numerous reasons for the near consummate dominance of the Melbourne Football Club during the second half of the 1950s, arguably the single most important was the impact of the man in the number 31 jumper.
By general acclaim the best player afield in Melbourne's 1957 and 1959 Grand Final wins, Barassi was also some people's choice as best on ground in the 1955 and 1956 premiership teams. In 1958, Collingwood owed its unexpected flag win largely to its tactic of doing everything possible and imaginable, both within and outside the scope of the laws of the game, to curb Barassi's influence. Besides playing in six Demons premiership sides, Ron Barassi won the club's best and fairest award on three occasions, represented the VFL 19 times, and was named in three All Australian teams.
To most football fans he epitomised Melbourne, so when it emerged, in late 1964, that he had accepted a lucrative offer to 'jump ship' and join Carlton as captain-coach, the overriding response (other than at Princes Park) was one of horrified shock. Barassi, though, was determined to utilise his keen football brain in a coaching role, and realised that the opportunity to do this at Melbourne, where Norm Smith was presumed to have a job for life, would not arise for many years. At Carlton, a once great club desperate to recapture its former glories, he could implement his ideas immediately in - presumably - an atmosphere more tolerant of the occasional mistake.
As a coach, Ron Barassi was as demanding towards his players as he was towards himself,but in the complacent atmosphere prevailing at Princes Park this was the equivalent of a breath of fresh air. Under Barassi, who combined considerable tactical acumen with his trademark passion, fervour and aggressive determination, Carlton gradually emerged from the wilderness to claim the 1968 and 1970 flags. The 1970 premiership win was especially memorable. After conceding Collingwood a half time lead of 44 points, the Blues responded in dramatic fashion to their coach's injunction that they play on at every opportunity, adding 13.4 to 4.4 in the second half to win by 11 points.
Barassi had retired as a player in 1969, but after leaving Carlton at the end of the 1971 season he played 3 VFA games with Port Melbourne. However, his real ambitions now lay in the coaching sphere, and in 1973 he was convinced to return to the VFL as coach of North Melbourne. His achievements at North were arguably the most auspicious of a truly memorable career. The Kangaroos had never previously won a VFL flag, but within a year Barassi had them playing off in a Grand Final against Richmond. The Tigers won on that occasion, but a year later North made its long overdue breakthrough with a 19.8 (122) to 9.13(67) Grand Final defeat of Hawthorn. A second premiership followed two seasons later.
After leaving North, Barassi had stints as coach at Melbourne and Sydney which, whilst unsuccessful in tangible terms, can in retrospect be seen as vital in the reconstruction of those clubs as viable members of the league. Although no longer directly involved with football, the name 'Barassi' remains synonymous with achievements of the highest order in Australia's, and arguably the world's, most spectacular sport.
Author - John Devaney
1. “SA Football Budget”, 2/7/60, page 7.