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The Sydney Morning Herald

Barassi's special mark

Date: 17/05/1995
Words: 483
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: SPORT
Page: 54
Ron Barassi reaches another milestone tomorrow night - his 500th game coaching at Australian football's highest level.

The game against Carlton at the Sydney Cricket Ground will be his 45th with Sydney, adding to his 147 games as coach of Carlton, 198 at North Melbourne and 110 at Melbourne.

Nine months short of his 60th birthday, he'll be fronting up yet again for the best part of two hours of mental strain, whether the Swans win, lose or draw.

Why does he do it when he is one of the greatest of the greats - someone whose name personifies the very heart and soul of the game?

"I only came out of retirement to help the Swans out - once I'm finished here that's it, I'm out for good," he said.

"This is definitely my swansong," he added as a mischievous after-thought, before insisting he had "definitely no intention whatsoever" of trying to break Collingwood old-timer Jock McHale's record of 714 games as coach.

Barassi is fourth on the list of long-serving coaches, behind McHale, Allan Jeans (575 games with St Kilda, Hawthorn and Richmond) and Tom Hafey (522 with Richmond, Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney).

He has seen, played with and coached great, good and mediocre footballers over a span covering half a century.

Hawthorn's champion rover Leigh Matthews tops Barassi's list of the greatest players he has seen, followed by the Carlton ruckman "Big John" Nicholls and Footscray genius Ted Whitten.

He names Melbourne rover Alby Rodda, Collingwood rover Bob Rose, Essendon's champion full-forward John Coleman, Melbourne half-back flanker Wally Lock, Melbourne winger Ted Jackson and Melbourne ruckman Denis Cordner among the heroes of his boyhood in the 1940s.

"Obviously I was a Melbourne supporter," said Barassi, who played 204 games with the Demons between 1953 and 1964, before beginning his coaching career as captain-coach of Carlton in 1965.

Of the present-day players, he described North Melbourne centre half-forward Wayne Carey as "awesome, an absolutely sensational player", and reels off the names of Gavin Brown (Collingwood), Gary Lyon (Melbourne), Greg Williams and Stephen Kernahan (Carlton), Barry Stoneham - "when he plays" - (Geelong), Nicky Winmar (St Kilda), and the Swans' Tony Lockett, Mark Bayes and Paul Kelly as others he admired.

Barassi said modern teams would "thrash the teams of the past", although if the old-timers had a couple of years of modern-type training and weight-lifting they might make a game of it.

"Even then they'd get beaten because they were shorter and slower," he saids.

"But that's not taking anything away from them - they were the best of their time and you really can't do better than that."

Barassi said the basics of coaching hadn't changed much over the years, although different styles of playing the game had evolved, and players were generally younger and better educated.

"You might have to explain things more to them, have more one-on-one sessions, that kind of thing," he said.

One thing that hasn't changed is his pet hate among footballers - the player with a lot of talent and little dedication to making the most of it, probably because as a player he wasn't blessed with as much natural talent as some but worked with fanatical determination to get to the top.

Among Barassi's regrets in his coaching career was the failure by his clubs to snare players they wanted.

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