Barry Round’s Legacy to the Bloods

Christmas 1981 was to all South Melbourne supporters and players the bleakest Christmas of all time, as coaches were appointed, sacked and replaced again, players left, others were on strike, they had not been paid.

Eventually they were paid, but unbeknown to the players and the supporter base, the last game had been played at the famous Albert Park ground.

The days of going to the footy with my Dad, my uncle and my grand aunties with their sandwiches, hot thermoses and umbrellas to hit the players over the pickets with were gone, as was the after game Donut man, the Peanut man and the heart and soul of a football club.

By the start of the 1982 season all that was left were failed court cases, a despondent supporter group, and a group of players still playing for South Melbourne in name only in a foreign city with hostile crowds.

South Melbourne went broke at the same time brown paper bags were being tossed around Lygon Street and Napier Street like confetti (good luck to them as, unfortunately, there was a shortage of lunch bags around Clarendon Street).

South Melbourne was on death row, and by the start of the 1983 season SMFC was no mord

The eventual rebirth of the now-successful Sydney Swans had its genesis, though, from the players and supporters in the throes of the 1982 to 1985 death march.

The leader of the player pack during this time was a robust big man with a heart as big as Phar Lap. His name was Barry Round.

Round, along with Stevie Wright, Rod Carter, Colin Hounsell, Mark Browning, Bernie Evans, Stephen Allender, Paul and Tony Morwood, as well as other senior players, nursed the next group of young players such as future Captain Dennis, Brett Scott, Wayne Carroll, Max James, a very young David Rhys-Jones, Anthony Daniher, and even Silvio Foschini through this turmoil. Make no mistake, hiwever – Barry Round was the leader.

The 1982 season of limbo for South Melbourne was hell for the supporters as decisions had to be made about the team’s future, including home ground and the actual name of the club, yet it was the playing group who gave hope to southern based supporters for the future.

Barry Round was the face of the club and while Public Relations was not even a thing in 1982. He was the PR guru just by the weight of his on-field performances and his charisma after matches.

(Remember – this was an era when players had a beer straight after the match and it was not unusual to see a player or three at Edward’s Tavern or The Chevron early in the week and, as such, the players were more accessible publicly – there were no videos of iPhones back then.)

It is no secret that Barry Round enjoyed a drink and a chat and it was this part of his persona that helped keep the southern supporter base intact during the formative years of the Sydney Swans.

While people from Sydney were walking around the outer during matches to ask US to call the team Sydney not South Melbourne, to which they got the reply they deserved, we were always welcome in the rooms straight after the game and to the after-match functions.

Barry Round, Stevie Wright and others would talk to the supporters and share a beer (some players may have been seen having a dart after the game) whether we won, lost or drew.

By the time the Good Doctor arrived in 1986 (after another near-failing of the club) Sydney may not have won the southern supporters over but the players, led by Barry Round, had done their bit to ensure they were not left behind and the Bloods culture would be maintained.

Barry Round was a man of the people and the people gravitated to him – he had that certain X factor which cannot be explained.

While Barry didn’t survive into the Edelston era of pink helicopters and the Whiz, my lasting memory of him was not as the last Captain of the South Melbourne Football Club, but it was the crowd swarming the ground and him in partucular after he Captain/Coached Williamstown to the Premiership in 1986. The smile on his face was just full of pride. The happiness he exuded to finally be a part of a Premiership Team was palpable. That goes to the very heart of who Barry was and what he stood for – he was ‘part of’ the clubs he played for and wanted as many people as possible to be ‘part of’ them as well.

In 2005 when the Swans finally won a Premiership, the television cameras rightly centred on three true Legends of the South Melbourne/Sydney Swans Football Club. Bob Skilton, Paul Kelly and as the person who did more than any other to ensure the longevity of the Swans and the Bloods culture, Barry Round.

It was a fitting way to recognise a man who gave so much of himself to the game and those involved in it.

Rest in peace Legend


Ps: I recognise his great career at Footscray and acknowledge he was included in their 2016 celebrations – understandably that club is mourning as well.


– Disco



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