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, the first Melbourne player to die in World War II, was the second player to take advantage of the VFL's father/son rule. He had first trained with the Thirds as a 15-year-old in 1951, and began playing for them in 1952 but didn't otherwise qualify for Melbourne on residential grounds. Invited to train with the seniors in 1953, Barassi was set to move to Tasmania with his mother and her new husband. Norm Smith took him in, offering to help him stay in Victoria as the club was concerned about obtaining a clearance for him to return later. Far from getting an easy ride from Smith, many (including Barassi himself) believed that he was made to work harder than any of his teammates. He wasn't the most skilled player in the competition but made up for that with fierce determination.
Barassi had a slow start to his career, and was used in a variety of positions around the forward line with little success. He played 12 Seconds and six senior games in 1953, but was dropped after playing full forward in the second and third rounds of 1954. He was then dropped, but seeing obvious natural talent and will to succeed, Smith ignored the fact that Barassi was too short to be a ruckman and too tall to play as a rover, hatching a plan with trainer Hugh McPherson to use him in a hybrid ruck/rover role. He excelled in the role while playing Seconds, being picked to represent the VFL against the South Australian league seconds in an interstate game curtain raiser.
Returning to the seniors, Barassi was part of a side that had a remarkable rise from 11th to Grand Final. The second-year player was one of his side's key contributors. He was never dropped again, and by the time Melbourne won the 1955 premiership he was a star of the competition. Former Richmond champion Jack Dyer called him the best VFL player since Ivor Warne-Smith. In the 1959 Grand Final five minutes of sublime football just before half-time helped drag his side back into the match, kicking three goals in quick succession to give his side the lead. During 1957 he suffered a spate of injuries including a chipped finger bone, bruised back, gashed eye-lid and two bruised shoulders but still lifted a third premiership cup.
He replaced John Beckwith as Captain in 1960 and played in another premiership. At the end of that season he briefly took up professional sprinting. In 1961, Barassi won his first best and fairest. He took the award home for a second time in 1964.
Barassi missed the 1963 finals series after being suspended in the second last game of the year. 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 £3000 a year plus finals bonuses to join Carlton, the Blues announced on December 23, 1964 that Barassi would be their playing coach in 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." In August he'd rejected an offer to captain/coach SANFL side Woodville, saying he wasn't prepared to leave Victoria under any circumstances.
Barassi had already stood in as coach for Smith in Round 8, 1964 when Smith was coaching Victoria, and was being groomed as his successor but chose not to wait. Carlton got their man for a reported £5000 over three years. After complaining to the VFL about Carlton allegedly poaching Barassi, Melbourne delayed his clearance into 1965, by which time he was already acting as Carlton's coach. After a letter from Carlton's president apologising for the way they approached Barassi, Melbourne's committee eventually cleared him by just seven votes to five. He became the first reigning premiership captain to change clubs.
The Demons didn't play another final until 1987, but Barassi coached 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, and his son Ronnie never made league football.
Barassi 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 soon left Carlton anyway. He attempted a short lived, three game comeback with VFA side Port Melbourne in 1972 before entering the media.
In 1973, Barassi took over as coach of North Melbourne from old teammate Brian Dixon. He led them to their first two premierships in 1975 and 1977 before being lured back to the Demons as coach in 1981.
|Grand Final 1958||Striking||Guilty|
|Round 12, 1960||Obscene Language||1 match|
|Round 17, 1963||Striking||4 matches|
Barassi had first coached coaching debut came in Round 8, 1964, aged 28, when Norm Smith was interstate coaching Victoria. Barassi led his side to a win, and at the end of the year left to take up a full-time job as Captain/Coach of Carlton. He'd also been approached by Richmond, and Melbourne attempted to placate him by publicly naming him as Smith's successor and making him an assistant coach. The Tigers' committee pulled out of the race, fearing it would interfere with a prospective move to the MCG, but a new committee at Carlton was eager to find success and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Despite success at both Carlton and North Melbourne, Barassi's business interests were in trouble in the late 1970s, and he signed a $30,000 deal with the Demons in 1977 which allowed them the first option on his services at the end 1980. Barassi could buy himself out of the deal at any time.
After the failure of the Carl Ditterich captain/coach experiment, Melbourne exercised their option. In the face of substantial bids for his services from Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon, Barassi returned home for a considerably lower salary than he might have banked elsewhere. His refusal of the Essendon role opened the door for the Bombers to appoint Kevin Sheedy as coach.
Before his return Barassi spent $1500 on newspaper advertisements asking for the fans to support his return, which they not surprisingly did. Upon his appointment he said he expected it to be between "four and eight years" until the Demons were a force again. Eight years later they played in another Grand Final. Reminded of his claim in mid-1981, he replied: “I have come to the realisation that it will take one or two years longer than I thought”.
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 a single win, by one point over a Footscray side, who only won two games for the season.
During 1984 there was speculation that he would leave at the end of the season, and Barassi himself said he didn't believe he was getting through to players. After the side improved mid-year he agreed to stay, and six wins between Round 8 and Round 13 left Melbourne inside the five. They fell away, despite being only a game away as late as Round 18, and finished one place lower on the ladder than 1983. One enduring image of the season was a 3/4 time bust up with Shane Zantuck during the Round 14 loss to Essendon at Waverley.
Despite further speculation linking him to the vacant Sydney or North Melbourne coaching jobs, Barassi stayed for 1985. The team went backwards again and before the Round 16 match against Carlton, Barassi announced he'd step down at the end of the season. Richmond held talks with him at the end of 1987 but he stayed out of the game until 1993, when he was recruited by the AFL to coach the ailing Sydney Swans. The platform he built helped drag them off the bottom and set them up to play a Grand Final in 1996.
Barassi 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
Age - 07/04/1960
Age - 01/12/1960
Age - 05/08/1964
Age - 01/10/1964
Canberra Times - 12/12/1964
Canberra Times - 30/12/1964
Age - 23/01/1965
Age - 06/02/1965
Age - 17/02/1965
Age - 01/09/1970
Age - 11/10/1979
Age - 02/02/1980
Age - 13/09/1980
Age - 2/10/1980
Age - 3/10/1980
Age - 06/02/1981
Age - 13/06/1981
Age - 19/10/1984
Inside Football - 21/03/1985
Age - 29/08/1987