DOB: 27 February 1936
From: Preston Scouts
Number: 31 1953-1964
Premiership Winner - 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1964
Grand Final team - 1954, 1958
Captain - 1960 - 1964
Best and Fairest - 1961, 1964
Coach - 1981 - 1985
Leading Goalkicker - 1958 (Joint), 1959
Victorian state representative - 1961 (c)
All Australian - 1956, 1958, 1961 (Captain)
Australian Football Hall of Fame "Legend" - 1996
MFC Hall of Fame - 2001
MFC Hall of Fame legend - 2003
Life Member - 1962
Team of the Century - Captain and Ruck/Rover
150 Heroes selection
Games: 204 (254 total)
Goals: 295 (329 total)
The son of the late Ron Barassi Sr who was killed during World War 2 qualified to play for the Demons under the then Father/Son rule - a rule invented specifically to make sure that he didn't end up elsewhere.
Invited to train with the seniors the next year, he was taken in by Norm Smith and his family. Far from getting an easy ride from the mastercoach, many - including Barassi himself - believed that he was made to work harder than any of his teammates.
Barassi wasn't the most skilled player in the competition but he more than made up for it with fierce determination. His early performances gave no indication of how he was going to practically invent, or at the very least popularise, the ruck-rover position. Tried in a variety of positions across the forward line he was a failure, but seeing his obvious natural talents and determination Smith stuck with him and wound up hatching a plan with trainer Hugh McPherson to use him in the middle despite being too short to be a ruckman and too tall for a rover.
1953 saw him play 12 games in the reserves and six with the seniors - debuting midway through the last term. He played two games at full-forward in the second and third rounds of 1954 before being sent back to the reserves. It was there that he was thrown onto the ball, and the modern ruck-rover was born. The next year he represented the VFL against the South Australian league seconds in an interstate game curtain raiser.
It was in that position that his strength and leadership qualities blossomed, and he became a terror all around the ground for opposition sides. The Demons had a remarkable rise from 11th to Grand Final in 1954, and the second year Barassi was one of the major contributors.
In the 1959 Grand Final he played five minutes of sublime football just before half-time which helped drag his side back into the match. Three goals came from a miracle snap and two strong marks. It gave the Demons a lead at half-time and they went on to win.
During 1957 he suffered a spate of injuries including a chipped finger bone, bruised back, gashed eye-lid and two bruised shoulders but still managed to lift his third premiership cup.
Appointed captain in 1960 to replace John Beckwith his side won the premiership that year, and he picked up two Best and Fairest awards. At the end of the season he briefly took up professional sprinting.
He was sensationally reported and suspended for the 1963 finals series, where the Demons finished their third season in a row without a flag for the first time in over a decade. Barassi won another premiership in 1964, but freely admitted that he had played a poor game and that if the Demons hadn't won he felt as if he would have to shoulder the blame. It was to be his last act in a red and blue jumper.
After refusing overtures from Richmond, and initially turning back 3000p a year plus finals bonuses to join Carlton the Blues announced on December 23, 1964 that Barassi would join them as a playing coach for 1965. In the book "The Coach", John Powers described the move as one that "Shattered many people's beliefs in the traditional concepts of sportsmanship and loyalty. Letters of protest poured into the papers and the Melbourne Football Club. Small boys wept."
Barassi had already stood in as coach for Smith when he was away on Victorian state duties, and was being groomed as the Red Fox's successor but chose not to wait. Carlton had got their man for a fee of 5000 pounds over three years (some suggest 6k). The Melbourne committee cleared Barassi by just 7 votes to 5, making him the first reigning league captain ever to change clubs.
The Demons wouldn't play another final until 1987. Barassi would coach the Blues to a flag in 1968 after retiring as a player late in the season. He returned for a final game in Round 7, 1969 - against Melbourne - in order to boost his total games with the Blues to 50 and qualify his son to play for Carlton under the father/son rule. A torn hamstring in the third quarter ended his comeback.
He coached the Blues to another flag in 1970, and was linked to his first return to Melbourne at the end of that year. The job would go to Ian Ridley, but Barassi would soon Carlton anyway. Attempting a short lived comeback with Port Melbourne (3 games) in 1972 before entering the media.
In 1973 he accepted an offer to coach North Melbourne and took them to their first two senior premierships in 1975 and 1977 before being lured back to the Demons as coach during the dark days of the early 1980's.
|Grand Final 1958||Striking||Guilty|
|Round 12, 1960||Obscene Language||1 match|
|Round 17, 1963||Striking||4 matches|
Barassi's coaching debut came aged 28 years old when he filled in for Norm Smith who was on duty with the Victorian team in Adelaide. Barassi led his side to a win, and at the end of the year left for Carlton to take up a full-time appointment as Captain/Coach of the Blues.
Despite success at both Carlton and North Melbourne Barassi found his business interests in tatters in the late 70's and signed a $30,000 deal with the Demons in 1977 which allowed them the first option on his services at the end of the 1980 season.
After the failure of the Carl Ditterich captain/coach experiment the Demons exercised their option, and despite substantial bids for his services from Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon Barassi went through with his part of the deal and he chose to return home for a considerably lower salary. His refusal of the Essendon role opened the door for the Bombers to appoint Kevin Sheedy as coach.
Before his return Barassi took out newspaper advertisements asking for the fans support for taking up the role and was, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly supported by a fan base who hadn't seen a finals appearance since his last year with the club in 1964. Upon his appointment he said he expected it to be between "four and eight years" until the Demons were a force again - and just under 8 years later they were playing in a Grand Final.
Having dropped 4kg on an Israeli army diet before coming back to the club, one of Barassi's first edicts was to ban his players from wearing beards. His first season in charge featured thumping training drills, arguments with Brent Crosswell and Peter Keenan and one solitary win, by one point over a Footscray side who managed just two victories for the season.
Though his stint as coach was largely unsuccessful on the field, including a wooden spoon in the first year, he nonetheless laid the foundations for the success of the John Northey era.
During 1984 it was unclear whether he would continue in '85, as he said he believed he wasn't getting through to the players, but as the side picked up in the middle of the season he agreed to stay. Six wins in a row between Round 8 and 13 had them inside the five, and as late as Round 18 they were only a game outside but six losses in the last seven rounds saw them finish a place lower than the previous season.
An enduring image of his reign was a 3/4 time bust up with Shane Zantuck during a Round 14 loss to Essendon at Waverley that year. The two patched up their difference soon after and Zantuck outlasted the coach at the Dees.
Despite speculation that he was about to walk out and take up the vacant Sydney coaching job at the end of 1984 Barassi stayed with the Demons for one last shot at getting it right. The team went backwards again and before the Round 16, 1985 match against Carlton Barassi announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
He later came out of retirement to coach the Sydney Swans during their darkest days in Sydney. However it was the platform that Barassi built which allowed them to recruit Tony Lockett and make the 1996 Grand Final.
He was named as coach in the Italian Team of the Century.
Barassi's son Ronnie was zoned to Essendon but crossed to North Melbourne under the father-son rule (as it was) and played in practice matches for the Roos while also turning out for Heathmont in the Eastern League. He failed to play a senior match, and was unable to join his father at the Demons. His cousin Carl also played in the Demons' Thirds and Fourths teams during the 1950s'.
Sporting Globe - 19/06/1954
"Barassi to captain the Demons" - The Age 07/04/1960
"Brian Dixon may win sprint again" - The Age 01/12/1960
Canberra Times - 12/12/1964
"Demons may have a Tiger as their new coach" - The Age 01/09/1970
"Barassi Finally a Demon Again" - The Age 2/10/1980
"Young Barassi a Demon too?" - The Age 3/10/1980
"Barassi bans beards" - The Age 06/02/1981
"Barassi to stay - it's definite" - The Age 19/10/1984
Palmer's Punchlines - Barassi vs Zantuck