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NMFC Archives: Ron Barassi

Originally published in July 2013. In a new feature, NMFC.com.au delves into the archives and looks back at some of the club’s rich history.

This week, as North Melbourne takes on Melbourne, we look at the remarkable playing and coaching career of Ron Barassi.

At just 17, Barassi joined Melbourne, but not before it lobbied the VFL for the creation of a Father-Son rule.

Barassi’s father was killed during World War II, and Melbourne had gone to great lengths to secure his signature. As a 16-year-old, he lived in the backyard bungalow of coach Norm Smith who took the youngster under his wing.

Credited with beginning the trend towards teams having a ruck-rover, Barassi found almost immediate success with his pace and strength great assets.

In 1957 he was handed the vice-captaincy duties, and three years later the captaincy. He won six premierships as a player - two as captain, two as vice-captain and won the team’s best and fairest twice.

Barassi was part of a team considered one of the finest of all time, with three flags in a row from 1955 to 1957.

In 1964 he made a controversial move to Carlton as playing coach, despite the best efforts of Melbourne to keep him. Its committee in fact met to vote on whether he’d be cleared to leave. The decision was not unanimous, but he was eventually allowed to join his new club.

Such was his standing in the game, Barassi’s life was insured by Carlton for the value of £25,000.

In 1968, he guided Carlton to its first premiership in 21 years. He focused solely on the coaching role in 1970 and landed another flag, this time against Collingwood.

Following the 1971 season he announced his retirement to focus on a business career, but it proved short-lived.

Barassi’s open approach in the media is unrivalled in the present day, but perhaps even more surprising was the way his contract at North was agreed upon, during a meeting with administrators Allen Aylett, Albert Mantello and Ron Joseph.

Mantello had discussed the idea of a coaching return with Barassi after buying a desk from his furniture store. At the time, he had no intention of coaching, but he was quickly swayed.

Below is the serviette that the details of Barassi’s contract were jotted on.

And so it went from there.

Still without a premiership to its name, North was dubbed the ‘million-dollar team’ by some in the media, as the likes of Malcolm Blight, Barry Cable, John Rantall, Barry Davis and Doug Wade were recruited.

North missed the finals in Barassi’s first season with 11 wins, but a season later played off against Richmond in the Grand Final.

Dubbed as ‘ahead of schedule’ by making it to the final hurdle, the Kangaroos lost by 41 points.

There was much hope in 1975, but after losing four games to start the year, Barassi was under pressure.

Papers announced ‘crisis point’ at North Melbourne, but it wasn’t long before it turned the tide.

Barassi himself hit the training track to rally his troops, and it had an immediate impact.

Led by its star recruits, the Kangaroos won 14 of their last 18 games to finish in third position.

They were overcome by premiership favourite Hawthorn in the Semi-Final, but gained the ultimate revenge two weeks later on the biggest stage.

North defeated the Hawks by 55 points in front of over 110,000 people at the MCG to claim its first premiership.

Hawthorn responded the following year with North runners-up, but as the 1977 Grand Final was televised live for the first time into Victoria, the Kangaroos saluted again, this time over Collingwood.

It wasn’t easy though, the first ever Grand Final replay came about after a draw. Both teams were tied on 76 points a piece at the final siren. A week later, North and Barassi claimed premiership number two with a 27-point victory.

He coached a further three seasons at North, including in a losing Grand Final, and would be remembered as one of the club’s finest ever leaders.

After the 1980 season, he left the club. Barassi moved back to Melbourne , and coached another 114 games with the Demons, and later Sydney.

His achievements were recognised with his induction as the first ever player into the AFL Hall of Fame as a Legend.

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