AFL’s grand final breakfast becomes a loving farewell – with a dash of politics – to Ron Barassi
Peter Dutton waits his chance to hail Ron Barassi and gently ridicule fellow breakfasteer Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP
The late Ron Barassi has been eulogised as a legend of the game, as the Prime Minister and opposition leader traded friendly barbs at the AFL Grand Final breakfast.
Fans, dignitaries and footy officials gathered at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for the annual North Melbourne Grand Final Breakfast in the lead-up to the code’s biggest game of the year.
More than 100,000 people are expected to fill the MCG on Saturday as Collingwood takes on Brisbane.
Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the legendary Barassi, who entered centre stage on grand final day 17 times, and his impact after he made the switch to coaching.
“If Ron had retired from footy after winning six flags with the Dees in the ’50s and ’60s, he’d still be recognised a champion of the game,” Mr Albanese said.
“But of course, he went on to revitalise the Blues and then in the ’70s took North from wooden spooners to the club’s first two premierships.”
The prime minister recounted the response he observed when the former Melbourne player made the switch to coach the Sydney Swans.
Ron Barassi in his early playing days with Melbourne.
“There truly was no bigger name in footy, but Ron never saw himself as bigger than the game.
“He was always thinking about how the game could grow and spread across this great country.”
Mr Albanese also took the opportunity to bring up past comments by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who was in attendance sporting a Lions scarf.
“I remember a few years ago you said that the streets of Melbourne were so dangerous that people were afraid of going out to dinner,” Mr Albanese said.
“Well, if the Pies win today, you might finally be right about that.”
In response, Mr Dutton joked about North Melbourne’s tough year after finishing second-last on the ladder while weaving in a jab to his opposing figure.
Dutton plays politics
“There’s no doubt, though, that you’re on the up,” he told attendees.
“There’s also no pressure, of course, because after you’ve received an AFL assistance package that makes Albo and Alan Joyce’s deal for Qantas over Qatar look like a rounding error, we want to see some finals action by the Kangaroos next year.”
Outgoing AFL chief executive Gil McLachlan received some friendly jibes, but the prime minister also thanked him for his legacy.
“Getting more women and girls involved through AFLW is the biggest revolution that we have seen in this game,” Mr Albanese said.
“Getting more Tasmanians involved with their own team – at last – because a healthy competition at the highest level depends on millions of people at the grassroots.”
It’s been two decades since Brisbane and Collingwood last faced off in a grand final.
The Magpies are seeking redemption after the Lions took out their third premiership in a row – and their second consecutive flag against the Pies – the last time they met in the decider.