Australia's AFL Hall of Fame legend, Ron Barassi visits the Australian War Memorial to place a poppy against his father's name on the Roll of Honour. Photo: Jay Cronan
Last year he visited his dad’s World War II grave in Tobruk and considered bringing his remains home. On Wednesday, AFL legend Ron Barassi placed a poppy beside his father’s name, and said he’s glad he didn’t.
Corporal Ron Barassi senior played rover for the Melbourne Demons from 1936 to 1940, but shipped off to North Africa just days after winning the 1940 premiership with his team. He was killed in Tobruk one year later, leaving behind his wife Eliza and five-year-old Ron jnr.
Speaking at the Australian War Memorial, Barassi jnr, now hailed as one of the most influential AFL players of all time, said it was the support of the Melbourne Demons club after his dad’s death that helped he and his mother through.
Ron Barassi's senior's name on the Roll of Honour. Photo: Jay Cronan
“Being a premiership player for the Melbourne footy club, a lot of people knew about it. So I could never forget it,” he said. “Melbourne were very, very good, made sure my mother could get a job.”
Barassi jnr went on to follow in his father’s footsteps, but only after the Melbourne Demons lobbied for a new father-son rule to allow him to play for the club. It’s a rule that remains in place today.
In a career that spanned 16 years as a player, and more still as a coach, his influence on the game was recognised when he became one of the first players inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996.
P05107.001: Corporal Ron Barassi.Additional information:Studio portrait of VX45220 Corporal (Cpl) Ronald James (Ron) Barassi, 7th Division Supply Column, Australian Army Service Corps, of Footscray, Vic. Photo: Australian War Memorial
Barassi jnr, who last year told Channel 9’s Sixty Minutes program he was suffering from some memory loss, said his father’s influence over his life has had an increasing impact on him over the years.
“I seem to be getting more emotional as I get older. I’m not sure if that’s normal, it doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t, it’s just the way I am at the moment,” he said.
“The last memory, really the only memory I have of my father is his visit to mum and I up in the little farm in Guildford near Castlemaine, on his way down back to the boat to go overseas during the wartime.”
Barassi in action at the MCG in 1939, a year before his enlistment in the army. Barassi played as a rover for Melbourne between 1936 and 1940. P05034.001 Photo: Australian War Memorial
He said he’d considered bringing his father’s remains from Tobruk to Australia during an emotional visit to the grave last year, but then thought better of it.
“I thought of bringing him back, then I thought his mates would want him to stay there, so I ended up leaving him there.”