AFL legend Ron Barassi’s ‘extraordinary life’ to be honoured with state funeral

Sep 19, 2023
Source: Getty Images. in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)

In a fitting tribute to a man whose influence on the sport of AFL was immeasurable, the Victorian government has announced that Ron Barassi will be honoured with a state funeral.

The sporting community united in grief after the family of the Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend broke the news of his passing via a statement on Saturday, September 16.

“After a full and extraordinary life, Ronald Dale Barassi, aged 87, left us today due to complications from a fall,” the statement read.

“He died peacefully, surrounded by loving family.

“We ask for privacy at this time.”

As fans and the AFL community come to terms with Barassi’s passing, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has confirmed he will be honoured with a state funeral.

“A state memorial to honour the extraordinary life of Ron Barassi has been accepted by his family,” Andrews said.

“The word legend is used a lot. But nobody deserves it quite like Ron Barassi.

“He didn’t just play the game – he reshaped it.

“The Department of Premier and Cabinet will work with Mr Barassi’s family and state memorial details will be announced in due course.”

Fans greeted the news of Barassi’s state funeral with open arms, with many proclaiming that the honour is truly fitting for a “legend of the game”.

Regarded as one of the all-time greats in the sport’s history, Barassi holds the honour of being the first player inducted as a “Legend” into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He is also one of only four Australian rules footballers to achieve this honour in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

Barassi’s AFL journey began after his father, Ron Barassi Sr., a Melbourne Football Club player, tragically died in World War II when Barassi was just five years old. Determined to honour his father’s legacy, Barassi joined the Melbourne club, leading to the creation of the father–son rule, which is still in use in the AFL today.

He lived with Norm Smith, Melbourne’s coach and a former teammate of his father, who mentored him. Under Smith’s guidance, Barassi played a pivotal role in revolutionising the ruck rover position and contributed to six premiership-winning teams, captaining two of them.

In 1964, Barassi left Melbourne for a lucrative contract with Carlton. He retired from playing in 1969 but went on to coach Carlton to two premierships. One of his most memorable moments came in 1970 when he led Carlton to an incredible grand final comeback in front of the largest football crowd in history. In 1971, he returned to coaching, first with North Melbourne and later with Melbourne and the Sydney Swans, helping rebuild these clubs as competitive forces in the league.

Barassi’s coaching career was both successful and groundbreaking. His passion for the game, along with his advocacy for a national club-level competition, made him a revered figure in Australian culture. He received numerous accolades, including being named a Member of the Order of Australia in 1978 and earning a spot in the AFL’s Team of the Century as a ruck-rover in 1996.

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