Reviewed – Barassi

At the outset, let me declare I’ve been a Melbourne Football Club supporter since I can remember. Flower, Grinter, Stynes. I wore number 2 on my school footy jumper and treasured the autographed photo from Robbie Flower.

Barassi was a name spoken with the same reverence as Ted Whitten. That said, I knew little of the history of the Dees, less, to be honest about Norm Smith. I am therefore very glad I read Peter Lalor’s book, simply entitled ‘Barassi’.

This book isn’t about one man; though it is. It’s not about one club, though the links between Barassi and Melbourne are highlighted consistently.

I enjoyed this book, and not just because of my support for the Dees, but because, in many ways, the story of Ron Barassi is the story of modern Australian rules, and Lalor clearly demonstrates this.

A highlight for me was the historical backstory of Ron Barassi Sr and ‘Ronnie’ (Barassi jnr), none of which I knew about. This part of the book was particularly poignant; and while Lalor shows his skills in considering the respect which Barassi senior was held, the death and aftermath of Mr Barassi senior is not laboured nor overly emotional. Poignant, reflective, letting the people tell the story.

That Ron Barassi wasn’t a saint, wasn’t perfect, wasn’t all things to every person is noted. I liked the tone of this book, I liked how it nodded to certain issues, noted them, and moved on. I liked how the compare and contrast technique was used to build the story, and how its shows that football changed, along with Ron’s wardrobe. I learned much, much more than I thought I would – about Norm Smith and Checker Hughes; of the internecine rivalries of the various football clubs (do things ever change?!); and of the evolution of the modern ruck rover.

A quibble – and this is something I’ve noted in other reviews, so it’s probably me – was that I’d have liked more analysis at the end about the impact of Ron Barassi had on football and the profession of football. Perhaps it’s just there, but I’d have still liked less footy scores and more of a considered, reflective and insightful conclusion to this very good book.

This book straddles biography, sport and social history effortlessly. It’s a fine read about a man who defined in many ways the modern game of Australian rules football and one which I thoroughly recommend.

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