Kangaroos great Sam Kekovich has recalled some of Ron Barassi’s most withering sprays to his players and explained why the iconic coach was so hard on his best players.
The AFL world is in mourning after Barassi’s family announced he died at 87 on Saturday evening.
Kekovich was commonly thought to be one of Barassi’s favourites during the pair’s time together at the Kangaroos in the 1970s, and he recalled his fiery run-ins with the legendary coach.
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“I hope all the HR departments in this country certainly won’t be watching this,” he told Nine’s AFL Sunday Footy Show.
“Those tirades of invective and unbridled abuse that he could impose on you, let me assure you, I still have those nightmares at about three or four in the morning when I wake up and I won’t be convinced that he’s gone until I actually see him drifting off.
“I certainly can’t forget some of the sprays because let me tell you, if the contemporary player was subjected to that there wouldn’t be a HR department that could adjudicate on it.”
Kekovich said Barassi often reserved his best sprays for his most talented players, namely legendary North Melbourne forward Malcolm Blight.
“I think he was harder on the naturally skilled players as opposed to someone like himself who was totally driven and got to the mountain top through sheer hard work,” he said.
“A lot of people say I was [one of his favourites] because I was a whipping boy like Norm Smith used him.
“His favourite saying was, ‘Don’t think you’re that talented son. That’s come out of the eye of your old man’s appendage, the rest you’ve got to do yourself! And Blighty, for God’s sake, centre the ball. What are you doing on the boundary line?’. This is after he’s [Malcolm Blight] threaded about nine through the eye of a needle.
“His temper used to rise to volcanic proportions.”
However, Kekovich and many others have also recalled a different side to Barassi, one that you’d only know if you were around him on a daily basis.
“He was a great motivator, but I always loved Barass for his soft side,” he said.
“He had a great wit, he enjoyed a turn of phrase, he loved to recite history. Everything was black and white for those that knew Ron, there was no grey area.”
Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire recalled how Barassi stood up for a woman being attacked.
“He was a lovely man. When a woman was being attacked in Fitzroy Street in St Kilda it was Barassi who went in and flew the flag when no one else was there in his 70s,” he told Nine’s Today.
Vale Ron Barassi
“As I often say in introducing Ron, in the past Ron Barassi was the only person who didn’t realise how big Ron Barassi was.
“You’d see him walk into a room and everyone would gravitate towards him. He had this humbleness about him. He knew where he stood in football, he wasn’t naive to it. But he didn’t play to his own effect. He was about giving to the game, giving to people.
“Whenever you are in trouble Barassi would ring you up to give you a bit of a pep talk.
“Whenever you thought you were getting ahead of yourself he’d give you a call and pull your nose a little bit, as well.
“He was that sort of person. He was not only a great football person, he was a great humanitarian.”
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