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Honouring the life and legacy of Ron Barassi AM (1936–2023)

VALE RON BARASSI AM
More than 5,000 people attended the State Funeral for AFL Legend Ronald Barassi AM held on November 10, 2023 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Sports icons, politicians, musicians, close friends, beloved family, and adoring fans paid their respects to the player, captain and coach the AFL called “the single biggest figure in post-war Australian Football history.”

Burgmann College has enjoyed a special connection with Ron Barassi AM since its inception, with students lovingly christening their residential wings “Homer” and “Barassi” in the college’s first year; a tongue-in-cheek nod to the scholarly and sporty proclivities of the residents in both wings at the time. When the residential wings were finally officially christened “Homer” and “Barassi” in 2001, Ron Barassi attended the event and was named an honourary alumnus of Burgmann College, cementing the friendly relationship between the legendary athlete and Burgmann.

Lewis Rushbrook was Burgmann’s Principal when the buildings were officially christened, and shared a fond memory of inviting Barassi to the event. “I telephoned him and invited him to attend, explaining the purpose of the event and the background. When he put the phone down, it’s said that he told his wife they were pulling his leg—a building at a university. ‘Joking, for sure!’

“He said he'd talk to his brother, an ‘acca’ [academic], to get an idea what to say. And so he appeared, taking a break, I think it was, from an AFL game at Ainslie,” said Rushbrook. Barassi was also presented with a #31 Burgmann football jersey at the event. Since then, the Burgmann football team’s captain has worn the #31 jersey, in honour of Barassi.

Former Burgmann College Principals Robert “Bob” Northey and Dr. Philip Dutton represented Burgmann College at the funeral ceremony. “The Barassi State Funeral was a wonderfully conceived and superbly organised tribute to the great AFL man,” says Northey. “Much preparation and planning had taken place beforehand, so that the various aspects of Ron's personalities and activities were attended to.

“It was not a sad occasion, and I had the impression that everyone enjoyed being part of the celebration of his life. Ron was shown in all his various roles and methods of motivating his players, as well as his role as family man. As his son said, ‘Dad was regarded a hero by everyone, but to us, his family, he was just plain dad.’” Northey also noted that the current President of the Melbourne Football Club (where Barassi began his career) is Burgmann College alumna Kate Roffey AM (1986–1988). “She was one of the speakers at the memorial and was most impressive,” says Northey.

Alumna Kate Roffey AM kindly shared her reflections on the life and legacy of Ron Barassi AO:

"As a President of an AFL Club, you get to do many extraordinary things that are great honours and privileges. I have raised both a Men’s and Women’s Premiership Flag—for our women, our first ever; for our men, the first since the great Ronald Dale Barassi captained our club to a win 57 years before. However, to be asked by his family to speak at his memorial service is an honour that will remain a highlight of my time at the Demons.

"To be given a State Memorial service is testament to the high esteem with which Ron was held both during his playing career and beyond. The fact that for the entire two-hour service not one mobile phone rang, not one person left their seat, speaks volumes more.

"Frank 'Bluey' Adams, who, like Ron, is Melbourne’s only six-time premiership player, wrote, 'Forget for a minute what Barassi did—and what he achieved—on the field. Something just as important is the fact that he is an outstanding human being.'

"That’s what made Ronald Dale so special, and that’s why his name is seen in so many places, including at Burgmann College.

"Anyone who knew Ron carries a special memory of him. Mine is carrying our 2021 Premiership Cup off the MCG when we unfurled our 13th Premiership flag. Never in my craziest dreams, when I was sitting in my room in the Barassi Wing at Burgmann studying for exams, could I ever have possibly imagined that I would one day be standing on the MCG with the man himself, and a shiny AFL Premiership Cup."

We thank former Principals Bob Northey and Philip Dutton for representing Burgmann College at Ron Barassi’s funeral, and former Principal Lewis Rushbrook and alumna Kate Roffey AM for sharing their memories of Ron Barassi AM.

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Former Principals Bob Northey and Philip Dutton attending the State Funeral with family members
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Ron Barassi at the College in 2001 when the 'Barassi Wing' was formally named in his honour.
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Alumna Kate Roffey AM and Honorary Alumnus Ron Barassi AM carrying the 2021 Premiership Cup off the MCG
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