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RETURN TO NEVERLAND by Whispering Jack


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The greatest Demon

A HIGHWAY OF DEMONS by Whispering Jack

CHAPTER SIXTEEN - RETURN TO NEVERLAND 

I have a six year old grandson who recently took up the family tradition of following the Demons. He had his first taste of the game a few years ago when he went to the “G” with his parents to watch the 107-point massacre of Carlton and he went to another game in the following season which was also a W for the Dees. But his appetite for the club has grown exponentially this year and when I last saw him before lockdown, he was running up and down our hallway, kicking a football and pretending he was Max Gawn. Still, it wasn’t until our daughter sent us two text messages with separate video clips on Saturday night that I realised how much of a football tragic he had become. He’s much like his grandfather was at the same age back in 1955 but my hallway hero was the great Ronald Dale Barassi.
 
The first piece of SMS vision was from half time when the Demons trailed the Cats by 39 points. He was in mid-tantrum, tears welling in his eyes, bellowing something about waiting for the game since 8 o’clock in the morning and it just wasn’t fair! The second clip was taken an hour later with the television flickering in the background as Max lined up for the fateful goal that led to Melbourne’s first top of the table finish since my hero of old led them there 57 years earlier. It was all happiness and joy.
 
Football does that to you. Always has and always will if you’re a winner, but if you’re a loser then a great amount of stoicism tends to flow under the bridge over time. And you almost become inured to a fate that consigns the dreams of childhood to some unattainable Neverland to which you can never return.
 
The great Ronald Dale Barassi was every boy’s hero back in the day. I became a fan by chance at Christmas 1954 when I went with my mother and cousin to see the Disney movie “Peter Pan”. Afterwards, we took a detour into Myers and I met Santa who gave each of us a shiny blue tie with a picture of a Demon footballer. Soon enough, I was smitten by Ron.

Barassi didn’t have the smooth and silky skills of Robbie Flower who came to the fore a generation later but what he had was sheer power backed up by a fierce determination to win. That was what took him and the Melbourne Football Club to six premierships in the decade that was to follow. I even got to meet my hero in the studios of Channel 7 on The Happy Show around 1960 when I won a novelty competition that snared me a pair of Barassi footy boots . I wore them throughout the winter and into the following season until I outgrew them. Not only did I wear the number 31 on the back of my jumper but my sons wore it as well — from their young ages right through to their amateur Under 19s and senior football days.
 
RDB, as he came to be called, was not only our hero and our Mister Football, he was also a great role model for the community. He proved that time and again even well beyond his career in the game. In his mid-seventies, he was assaulted in St Kilda when he went to the aid of a young woman he saw being punched to the ground after a dinner party.
 
As they say in the classics, “all good things come to an end”. In the dying days of 1964, exactly ten years after I became a convert, the announcement came that Barassi, who had led the Demons to the top of the home and away season ladder and held premiership cup aloft that year, was joining Carlton as its captain/coach for 1965.

The news hit us like a thunderbolt. Writing in the book "The Coach", John Powers described the move as one that "… shattered many people's beliefs in the traditional concepts of sportsmanship and loyalty. Letters of protest poured into the papers and the Melbourne Football Club. Small boys wept." Needless to say, I was one of the shattered generation of young Demon tragics who woke up on 23 December, 1964 to the bad news.
 
I’ve come across the vision below which accurately sums up how we all felt at the time, although the story teller (whom I call “Peter Pan” because he typifies our experiences of long ago), is a week or so out because he recalls the event as happening in 1965. That’s no big deal. We’ve waited long enough and it will be even less of a big deal if the class of 2021 can emulate the deeds of our hero of bygone days and return us to the Neverland of our dreams. I’m hoping that all of the little kids who, like my grandson, wear the red and blue and the older kids like me can revel in that taste in the month ahead.

 

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This is an absolute pleasure to read. And I love the vid at the end. I hope your passionate little grandson and you get to enjoy the ultimate in Demons joy in four weeks. ❤️💙

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My wife taught at a primary school in Hawthorn and on wear your footy colours to school day, a kid proudly wore his demons jumper every year. He had never been to a game we had won.

There are lots of long suffering and loyal supporters.hopefully this is our year.

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Thanks WJ.  Love to reminisce about our Golden Era.

Just pondering about which of our current players plays most like the great Ronald Dale back in the day.  It's clearly between Tracc and Clarry IMO, but I lean towards Clarry.  What do others think?

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19 minutes ago, Deeoldfart said:

Thanks WJ.  Love to reminisce about our Golden Era.

Just pondering about which of our current players plays most like the great Ronald Dale back in the day.  It's clearly between Tracc and Clarry IMO, but I lean towards Clarry.  What do others think?

Has to be Tracc with the hard body and his Italian origins.

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8 hours ago, Freddy Fuschia said:

Has to be Tracc with the hard body and his Italian origins.

Well … yes, partly so but in fact his origin is Swiss. Ron is a third generation descendant of one of the Swiss Italians of Australia who migrated to Australia in the 1850s and 1860s to areas such as Guildford, between Castlemaine and Daylesford.

A few years ago, he featured in an episode of the ABC series, "Who Do You Think You Are?". It was a fascinating documentary with a highly emotional scene of Ron returning to Tobruk to visit the grave of his father who played 54 games for Melbourne   from 1936 to 1940 and became the first VFL player killed in action in WW2. Like his son, his played his last game in a winning Melbourne premiership team.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt1519235/?ref_=ext_shr_em/

 

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On 8/27/2021 at 9:36 PM, Deeoldfart said:

Thanks WJ.  Love to reminisce about our Golden Era.

Just pondering about which of our current players plays most like the great Ronald Dale back in the day.  It's clearly between Tracc and Clarry IMO, but I lean towards Clarry.  What do others think?

Agree Oliver is clearly the RDB of today.  A clearance beast who goes all day. Not the most polished player going round but a relentless pressure machine.

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Thanks WJ. 

Similar feelings. 

Shattered is the word that best describes my feelings when Ron left us. It’s like our little world had caved in. 

As a kid I had written a letter to Ron a year or two before he defected. I asked him for an autograph and from memory told him that he was my hero. I looked up his name in the phone book and there he was, R.  Barassi, The Boulevard,  Heathmont. 

Unbelievable. He was in the White Pages like his name was Smith or Jones. Just another citizen but he was not just another citizen. He was Mr Football (forget Teddy Whitten). For a Melbourne supporter, Ron was Mr Football.

I hoped for a reply but did not expect it. I enclosed a stamped self addressed envelope. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when a few weeks letter, I received a short hand written  letter from Ron thanking me for supporting the Dees and suggesting that I practice my skills. With the letter, he enclosed a black and white Kodak photo (not a copy or print) signed with best wishes “Ron”. I can tell you there were not enough family and friends to share it with. I hate boasters but for weeks I was the worlds best or worst boaster.  I read sometime later that he received hundreds of letters from kids like me and replied to them all. 

But at that time, it felt like I was Ron’s friend. That I was the only kid in the world to receive a letter and photo from Ron. And I had not even asked for it. I had only asked for an autograph. 

Years later, I sat next to Ron in a barbers shop in Hawthorn and chatted about footy. It was after Neeld had been sacked and I suggested with a grin that we were looking for a coach. He laughed and said that he realised he was past it when he was coaching the Swans and he was giving a famous Barassi “roast” to his players and he looked around the group and noticed that most of the players were not listening. In Rons words, things had changed and his coaching style had been consigned to the broom cupboard. He felt that it was a good thing. 

What struck me about that conversation was Rons humility. As Eddie McGuire once said, “Ron Barassi is the only person in Melbourne who doesn’t realise he is Ron Barassi!”

The other thing was that Ron was still after all those years, a Melbourne person and had returned to his old love. 

That night, I excitedly told my wife about my conversation with Ron. My wife despite being Collingwood, told me that Ron was the only non Collingwood player that she liked because she had watched Rons kids segment on TV. However, she did comment that I was behaving like an excited kid in telling her about my conversation with Ron.

For that fleeting moment at the barbers, I was that 10 year kid again. And Ron was my hero. 

And thats why along with all the other reasons, I would love to see Ron holding that premiership cup. 

That would bring tears of joy and a sense that the MFCs long journey was now complete.

Edited by hemingway
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On 8/30/2021 at 11:19 AM, hemingway said:

Thanks WJ. 

Similar feelings. 

Shattered is the word that best describes my feelings when Ron left us. It’s like our little world had caved in. 

As a kid I had written a letter to Ron a year or two before he defected. I asked him for an autograph and from memory told him that he was my hero. I looked up his name in the phone book and there he was, R.  Barassi, The Boulevard,  Heathmont. 

Unbelievable. He was in the White Pages like his name was Smith or Jones. Just another citizen but he was not just another citizen. He was Mr Football (forget Teddy Whitten). For a Melbourne supporter, Ron was Mr Football.

I hoped for a reply but did not expect it. I enclosed a stamped self addressed envelope. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when a few weeks letter, I received a short hand written  letter from Ron thanking me for supporting the Dees and suggesting that I practice my skills. With the letter, he enclosed a black and white Kodak photo (not a copy or print) signed with best wishes “Ron”. I can tell you there were not enough family and friends to share it with. I hate boasters but for weeks I was the worlds best or worst boaster.  I read sometime later that he received hundreds of letters from kids like me and replied to them all. 

But at that time, it felt like I was Ron’s friend. That I was the only kid in the world to receive a letter and photo from Ron. And I had not even asked for it. I had only asked for an autograph. 

Years later, I sat next to Ron in a barbers shop in Hawthorn and chatted about footy. It was after Neeld had been sacked and I suggested with a grin that we were looking for a coach. He laughed and said that he realised he was past it when he was coaching the Swans and he was giving a famous Barassi “roast” to his players and he looked around the group and noticed that most of the players were not listening. In Rons words, things had changed and his coaching style had been consigned to the broom cupboard. He felt that it was a good thing. 

What struck me about that conversation was Rons humility. As Eddie McGuire once said, “Ron Barassi is the only person in Melbourne who doesn’t realise he is Ron Barassi!”

The other thing was that Ron was still after all those years, a Melbourne person and had returned to his old love. 

That night, I excitedly told my wife about my conversation with Ron. My wife despite being Collingwood, told me that Ron was the only non Collingwood player that she liked because she had watched Rons kids segment on TV. However, she did comment that I was behaving like an excited kid in telling her about my conversation with Ron.

For that fleeting moment at the barbers, I was that 10 year kid again. And Ron was my hero. 

And thats why along with all the other reasons, I would love to see Ron holding that premiership cup. 

That would bring tears of joy and a sense that the MFCs long journey was now complete.

In 2005 until early 2006 I worked part time at Acland Cellars, the evening shifts on Friday to Sunday. One night Davis Neitz came in and we chatted. I was bullish about our chances in '06, but he was curiously hesitant.

Another night Ron Barassi entered. I mentioned I had been a Demon man since I was an eight year old Demon in late 1958.

He was happy to talk, he paid for his wine and as he reached the door, he turned to me and said, Go Dees.

Oh, and my son worked at his pub in Bridge Road in the nineties.

Edited by dieter
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So just before this thread makes it’s way into our Special Features section, I want to correct any misapprehensions about one comment I made, namely that Ron “didn’t have the smooth and silky skills of Robbie Flower”. This is in no way meant to detract from the fact that Ron himself, was a highly skillful performer out on the field. He was a brilliant kick, a great mark and his handballing was top class. You don’t become a “Mr. Football” without being highly skilled. His other skills were however, what made him so memorable - his toughness, tenacity and hard tackling. These are the elements that set him apart from the others and that made him integral to the six premierships that we won in that wonderful era for Melbourne that have kept so many of us thirsting for the next one which will hopefully come in three week’s time.

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  • Demonland changed the title to A HIGHWAY OF DEMONS - CHAPTER 16: RETURN TO NEVERLAND
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