Ron Barassi is being remembered as the “most important figure in Australian football” since World War II as tributes roll in for the late AFL great.
Barassi passed away at age 87, his family confirmed in a statement on Saturday.
One of 12 original Legends of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, Barassi reached 17 grand finals for 10 premierships as a player/coach over his remarkable career.
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“It’s really sad news – certainly not the news we wanted to get tonight,” Fox Footy’s Jason Dunstall said.
“It’s a name that is synonymous with this great game of AFL.
“It’s a lasting legacy that he leaves.”
Two-time North Melbourne premiership winner David King said Barassi had a fitting nickname for his legacy to live on.
AFL world mourns legend Ron Barassi | 03:50
“Mr Football. It’s a great nickname – very apt,” he said.
“He had a great impact at every club he went to,” Leigh Montagna added.
“One of the most iconic names in our sport.”
Barassi played 254 AFL games – 204 of those for Melbourne and 50 for Carlton – before commencing his successful coaching career with 515 games across his time at Carlton, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Sydney.
“Ron Barassi was constantly ahead of his time pushing for national development and a national league,” AFL chairman Richard Goyder said in his tribute to the late great.
“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.
“He was known all across Australia when football wasn’t always known.”
Outgoing AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan issued a statement paying tribute to the impact Barassi had on the game.
“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.”
Carlton great David Parkin said Barassi had “the biggest influence on the game of Australian Football” in a touching tribute on Saturday night.
While Robert Walls described Barassi as the “most significant person in the lives of hundreds of footballers who played through the VFL in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and into the ‘90s”.
“When I first went to Carlton I was only 15 – it was unbelievable to think you were training on the ground with Ron Barassi, the biggest name in football,” he said on 3AW.
“He was tough, he was hard, he was fair and he was also a pioneer.
“He would encourage you to be bold and daring.
“I remember as a young player … we came off the ground at half time and I’d done something a little bit unfair to an opponent. Might have given him an ankle tap. And he (Barassi) grabbed me by the throat and said ‘hey we don’t do that – that’s not on’.
“He was revered by so many people.
“He’s still my hero.”
Melbourne Football Club issued a statement farewelling their great on Saturday night.
“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,” CEO Gary Pert said.
“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.”