Vale Barry Round, Swans great and AFL pioneer

    Round had a career to match his physical stature playing 438 games for Footscray (135 games from 1968-75), South Melbourne/Sydney Swans (193 games from 1976-85) and Williamstown (110 games from 1986-91) in the VFA.The pinnacle came in 1981 when he won the Brownlow Medal in a tie with his great friend and former Bulldogs teammate Bernie Quinlan.The following year he led the South Melbourne team north to Sydney as the Swans spearheaded the VFL’s push for a nationwide competition.Former teammate Mark Browning remembered the pivotal role his skipper played in those formative years.“There was only one Barry Round,” Browning told CODE Sports.“I was vice-captain to him for five years. I ran out behind him every week. There was an energy about him. Good big blokes have that, like Plugger and Buddy and Alastair Lynch and Barry Hall. I would live off that energy when I played, I thrived off it. ”Browning and Round were co-leaders through difficult times when the Swans struggled to find a foothold in the Harbour City.Earlier this year, Round spoke to CODE about the enormous challenge of the move to Sydney.“The move itself shifting the Swans from South Melbourne to Sydney was very traumatic,” Round said in March this year.“It tore the club apart. We had meetings at the end of the 1981 season to discuss our future. The options were to wind us up, to amalgamate with St Kilda, or go to Sydney.“The last game in 1981 was at the Lake Oval against North Melbourne and the cheer squad were dressed in black and the banner was black. The fans were crying, it was a terrible day. Some players said they weren’t going to Sydney and you can’t blame them.”In a time where draftees are reluctant to move interstate to pursue professional careers it’s hard to believe Round and his teammates uprooted their lives, families and careers as part-timers.It’s no exaggeration to say today’s thriving national competition sits on the shoulders of people like Barry Round.With the club being pulled apart in so many directions, he was the glue that kept the team together.Former Swans Chairman Richard Colless said: “The Sydney Swans wouldn’t be here without Barry Round.“Our Best Clubman award is named after him. We couldn’t have picked a more appropriate person. Through very difficult times he was really happy to be here, I never heard Barry bag anybody. He belonged to an era long gone where the social part of the game was a big part of players’ enjoyment and Barry enjoyed it more than most. He could drink for Australia.”Round was a natural entertainer.He loved a drink, a laugh and a song.Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler was a favourite as was Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Tom Jones’ Delilah.Among the many stories he liked to tell was a return to his hometown of Warragul at the age of 50.Over Friday night drinks at the pub he agreed to make up the numbers in the reserves the following morning. The only condition he set was to be able to sing Delilah after the game.By the next day the word had passed around town one of their favourite sons was making a one off appearance in the curtain raiser.Unfortunately for the first three quarters the fans were left disappointed, playing at full forward he hadn’t troubled the scorer or the statistician. Reading the dissatisfaction among the crowd he had a quick conversation with one of the umpires and told him his fans would be very unhappy if the star attraction and Brownlow medallist didn’t get a touch. To the umpire’s credit he obliged a few minutes later and paid a free kick for a marking infringement to Barry in the goalsquare.The big man converted from the goalsquare and the car horns around the ground sounded their approval. His rendition of Delilah never sounded better.Barry had a story and a line for every occasion.Those talents were on display when he appeared on The Front Bar last year.He retold the story of his first game for Footscray.“There were streamers and balloons everywhere and I thought they’re making a bit of fuss for my first game,” Round said.“I heard someone say they were going to have a guard of honour and I thought this is a bit over the top.“It turned out it was Teddy Whitten’s 300th.”Roundy was loved by his teammates and opponents alike. He enjoyed the social part of the game but it didn’t affect his fitness levels which were extraordinary for a man who was 193cm and 108kg.He would regularly finish in the top five in time trials over 3km to 10km and be unhappy if he didn’t.This was true throughout his career, which finished at the age of 41 at Williamstown in the VFA.“I was cut down in my prime at 41,” Round often quipped.“I played into my 40s so I must have enjoyed it, either that or I’m a slow learner.”Among his many career highlights over the years was the Swans win in the night premiership in 1982.He never tasted the ultimate success in Sydney but drew enormous pleasure from the 2005 and 2012 premierships. He has a tattoo commemorating both victories.In 2007 he moved to the Gold Coast where his hosting of the monthly Aussie rules Club lunch became legendary.On a personal note, I’ve known Barry for more than 40 years and have been chasing him around the country for most of that time.We both grew up in Footscray’s zone in Gippsland, Roundy in Warragul and me down the Princes Highway in Rosedale.By the time I reached the Western (now Whitten) Oval he’d gone to South Melbourne/Sydney Swans. Then when I followed his move to the Swans he’d gone back to Melbourne to captain-coach Williamston in the VFA.I finally caught up with the great man two years ago when I moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast.He and his partner Jenni helped my family’s transition north.Baz had a line for every occasion and I was lucky enough to hear most of them over the last couple of years at social breakfasts, lunches and dinners.I will miss him dearly.The Swans’ 40th year in Sydney has been a sad one. The club has also mourned the passing of supporter Kenny Williams, team manager John Payne and journalist Jim Main.Round has been battling health issues over recent years.He was 72.He is survived by his partner Jenni and children Natalie and David. Barry Round honoursBrownlow medallist 1981Australian football Hall of Fame 2001.South Melbourne/Sydney Swans Captain 1980-84Swans Best and Fairest 1979, 1981VFA Liston Trophy 1987Williamstown premiership captain coach 1986 and 1990Williamstown Hall of Fame, Legend status 2014

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