AFL legend Ron Barassi dies peacefully at 87 with family by his side

Calls are growing for the AFL to rename the premiership cup after football legend Ron Barassi, who will be farewelled at a state funeral.

Calls are growing for the AFL to rename the premiership cup after football legend Ron Barassi, who will be farewelled at a state funeral. Photo: AAP

Australian rules football legend Ron Barassi has died at the age of 87.

Barassi’s family confirmed the decorated former player and coach’s death on Saturday.

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

“He died peacefully, surrounded by loving family. We ask for privacy at this time.”

Barassi’s passing came mere hours after two of the five clubs he

Ron Barassi in his early playing days with Melbourne. Photo: Getty

coached — Melbourne and Carlton —  to premierships clashed in a titanic semi-final struggle at the MCG that saw the Demons denied victory with only seconds left on the clock.

He was the first player to be inaugurated into the AFL Hall of Fame as a Legend, Barassi played 253 senior VFL games in his career, including 204 for Melbourne and 49 for Carlton.

Reacting to the news, 3AW host Neil Mitchell, a close friend, described the man who came to be known as Mr Melbourne as one of a kind.

“I’ve never met anyone with so much integrity,” a clearly emotional Mitchell told listeners.

Between playing and coaching, Barassi claimed 10 premierships at Melbourne, Carlton and North Melbourne.

On New Year’s Eve in 2009, while dining in St Kilda, he saw a woman being hit by a man on the street outside.

With the fearlessness that marked his  playing days, he intervened and tackled the attacker, who landed a number of heavy blows on the the then 72-year-old.

Police later nabbed the assailant and Barassi, bruised but as always defiant, was subsequently honoured with a Humane Society medal.

The man who would become a Melbourne icon lost his father in the Western Desert fighting early in World War II and began his career at Melbourne, where coach Norm Smith became a surrogate father.

Barassi decamped in 1964 Carlton as captain-coach, where he delivered the 1968 and 1970 VFL flags. As for Melbourne, his departure marked the start of the Demons’ steady decline after a stellar decade of premierships and grand final appearances.

Later he produced the same magic with North Melbourne, driving them to premierships before returning to his first club, Melbourne, for five years.

His last coaching gig came in 1993, when he was recruited to coach the newly relocated Sydney Swans, formerly South Melbourne, after coach Gary Buckenara was fired following a string of double- digit and three-figure thrashings.

Like Melbourne, the Swans proved the a club he was unable to gift with a flag, but there is no denying he lifted a bottom-dwelling club to respectable middle ranking over the next two seasons.


-with AAP

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