Barrie Robran

Sellars, Robran, Hammond, Martin

Sellars, Robran, Hammond, Martin


Words and photo by Peter Argent


Barrie Robran’s name doesn’t run off the tongue like many greats of Australian sport: Whitten, Barassi, Ella, Bradman , Ponting, Langer, Lewis and co.

But it should!

The country boy from Whyalla is an icon of Australia sport and is now honoured with a 250 kg statue  at the southern entrance of  Adelaide Oval.

If you don’t know about this great Aussie Rules footballer, shame on you!

Start “googling” or find a you-tube package on him. Now.

Here’s a starter package for you – Ed:

As mercurial a player as he was, the man himself is even more humble and respectful to include others in every accolade he received.

With all the dignitaries and stars of the code around during the unveiling of his statue, Robran made time to thank a mate from Whyalla in his early days Mick Vanvacas, for making the effort to come down for his special day.

That is the mark of the man.

An old opponent of Robran’s recently told me that the graceful  footballer who wore the number 10 jumper for North Adelaide developed  a physical presence as well, but off the field “he should have been a priest, not because of his immense footballing talents, for his ability not to offend anyone but still deliver a succinct message.”

The Robran statue was sculptured by Ken Martin, from Port Lincoln. It’s taken from a photo snapped by SA’s premierssporting photographer for half a century Ray Titus.

It depicts the three-time Magarey medal winner showing his aerial skills at the venue. (One of the great aspects of his game).

His first coach, nine-time SANFL Magpies premiership great Geof Motley, had a bet with his chairman of selectors that Robran would become the first four-time Magarey medallist is SANFL football.

He lost a carton of beer, but that was because of an injury Robran suffered late in a state game in Sydney against the Vics in 1974, with in an incident Hawthorn hard-man and fellow Australian Hall of Famer Leigh Matthews.

I was lucky enough to see him as a 10-year-old at Football Park, in 1974 just before that injury.

My team Sturt, with a nine-goal haul to the late-great high flyer Ken Whelan won the match in emphatic style.

But playing at centre half forward for North, Barrie Robran was comfortably best on ground in a losing side.

Along with his football ability, Robran was also a handy cricketer, representing his state in two Sheffield Shield matches and a Gillette Cup one-day match







  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Robran is simply the best as a player and as a person as a teenager , Robran defeated
    Norwood virtually single handed on 1 leg after the initial disappointment had subsided I thought how lucky am I . When Ad Uni FC roasted , Chocka Bloch on receiving a , OAM my phone rings it was the great man , Barry Robran just checking if it was ok to end his speech proposing a toast to Chocka I reply with that is fine , Barry .the greatest player ever has just asked me for permission how lucky am I . It is a football tragedy that we didn’t get the chance to enjoy his full career who knows how many , MM he would have won Thanks Peter

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I saw this, his second and final first class appearance for SA, proving that he was (somewhat) human after all.

    One of the few “Barrie’s” , apart from Barrie Cassadie :)

    Beatles v Stones / Robran v Ebert

  3. Fans of the greatest footballer ever should check out Mike Sexton’s brilliant tribute to one of his greatest games:

  4. Swish – Beatles and Robran – daylight second in both cases.

  5. Peter Schumacher says

    It’s almost like Bradman not attaining that 3 figure average that most outside South Australia had no idea how good Robran was. It really is one of life’s frustrations that what may yet have come was stymied late in that interstate match and in addition that he played before decent TV coverage got going.

  6. Ben Footner says

    Barrie plays lawn bowls these days too I believe, he’s fairly handy as well from what I have heard (as you can expect, haha).

  7. A true champion on and off the field. Dignity and humility amongst the many wonderful attributes that characterise the great man. The statue is a fitting tribute but his name wouldn’t have gone astray on a grandstand either. I recall hearing that Jezza applauded him on the field after Robran skillfully and gracefully evaded a handful of marauding Carlton players in the 1972 Champions of Australia game on that oval. What a mark of respect from another superstar of that era.

  8. You have said it all- a humble true champion of the game

  9. Rabid Dog says

    Without doubt, THE best player to ever pull on boots (and my favourite all-time footballer). I only ever saw him play as a kid, but he beat Centrals single-handedly on more than one occasion. I saw him playing Seconds at Prospect in the mid-late 70 and he had the ball on a string, even on one leg and an ENORMOUS knee brace. That his career was ended in THAT event is tragedy that is never forgotten amongst my family and friends. Off-field, I have had the great joy of speaking with him more than once (does help that he’s a friend of the father). On slighter Barrie note, for those of you that know PLUG, he has a great story – Plug was living in Toronto in the late 80s when a touring VFL team including Leigh Matthews arrived at Toronto airport. Plug, being a die-hard Barrie and Roosters fan was on hand to greet Lethal – as he came through arrivals, Plug sided unto Lethal, and announced:
    “Remember Barrie Robran’s knee.”
    Apparently his face dropped with shock that even 1/2 way around the world, someone was reminded of his dastardly act. Makes me laugh every time I think about it !

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Rabs, hadn’t heard that Plug story before.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rabid Dog and Swish my favorite Plug moment was at Prospect after a Roosters flag and Plug congratulated the father of the , Jarmans for producing the sperm that won
    North the flag his response was similar to Lethals speechless

  12. Jade Robran says

    It’s so lovely to read all of these messages. I grew up as having Barrie as my Uncle (obviously still is) and with so many people telling me how wonderful he was as a player. It’s not until you get older yourself that I think you truly appreciate people’s gifts. I loved reading your stories and memories of Baz…. Thank you for sharing.

  13. James Lang says

    Barrie is a out and out champion, who is one of the most humble people you will ever meet. Not only is he one of footy’s greatest, but a great supporter of important charities. We were privileged to have him speak at a charity function. A true gentlemen who should be rightly recognised nationwide.

  14. John Mitchell says

    I was privileged enough to see every game that Barrie played for North Adelaide and I will never see abetter footballer. We all know about his game against Carlton in 1972 but he played just as great a game against Hawthorn the previous year. He got North to the lead at the 18 minute mark of the last quarter of that game before Hawthorn’s superior fitness allowed them to draw away. And Barrie was playing Centre Half Forward that day, not centre like he did against Carlton. But my favourite memory of Barrie was the 1971 Second Semi Final at Adelaide Oval. Port led by 21 points at the 18 minute mark of the last quarter. Port never lose any game, let alone a Second Semi from that position. In the last 12 minutes Barrie kicked 4 goals , North kicked 7 goals 1 behind to Port 1 goal 1 behind and North won by 15 points. Having performed that miracle, the Premiership was a cakewalk. He killed Port again the next year despite having Ebert and Woite as opponents. North Adelaide have had some great champions like Ken Farmer, Ian McKay, Don Lindner, the Jarman brothers and even a junior and reserves player called Wayne Carey, but no club in Australia has had a player to compare with Barrie Robran. Simply the Best.

  15. David Fairlie says

    I have seen some amazing football performances since the mid-60s. I barracked for Carlton as a junior but have been a student of Australian football. I must have watched thousands of VFL, SANFL, AFL & state games over my lifetime. I saw the purple periods of Richmond (60s, 70s), Carlton (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s), Essendon (80s, 90s, 2000), Hawthorn (70s, 80s, 2000s), North Melb (70s, 80s, 90s), West Coast (90s, 00s) and Geelong (60s, 80s, 00s) and the eras of Port Adelaide, Sturt, North, Glenelg, Norwood. I followed Wayne Carey’s sensational career including that incredible left foot check side goal off balance against Essendon in 1999. Garry Ablett’s 14 goals against Essendon when Salmon got 10 at the other end, and his 9 goals in the 1989 grand final – he was freakish on his day. The consistent dominance of Mathews and his 11 goals that brought his nickname Lethal to life (reinforced by his clashes with players, including Cable and Robran). Peter Hudson (wow), Peter Knights, Jason Dunstall, Garry Dempsey, Royce Hart. Phil Carmens 11 goals for Collingwood. Greg Williams in the middle. Alex Jesualenko, Ian Stewart, Bob Skilton, Polly Farmer, Malcom Blight, Tony Locket (one of the best at recovering after a marking contest and amazing speed around a contest for his size), Modra, Voss, Hird, Buckley, Judd, Garry Ablett Junior (the best player in the AFL for 3 years now in my opinion). But better than all of them – yes better than them all was Robran. I probably only saw 30 of his games first hand. At 6’3″, he had incredible balance and the ability to evade 1, 2, 3, 4 players – I suspect this ability may have rated with Hayden Bunton Sen and Darryl Baldock from what I have read; he was able to pivot left, then right and escape most contests; hand ball 15-20m to the left side or right side to players running past (this is why he was used at CHF when he was a deadset centreman). He kicked on the left and right side almost equally well and had one of the highest marks in the game. I think of Matthews, Carey, Skilton and all the others above who I rate as “classical” footballers, fantastic players that stood out in their eras and became masters of the game during their careers. Robran was different – sheer brilliance, pure skill – he was a master of the game even before his career began. I haven’t seen anyone with as much natural talent as Robran in my lifetime. In my view he was as far above other footballers as Bradman was above cricketers. I hope to have a few more decades to discover another one as brilliant. I live in Brisbane now (I have lived in 4 states) and my favourite current players are Pendlebury, Franklyn, StevieJ, Hodge, Wingard & Fyfe. What a great game this is !

  16. Truly a great. Just about all SANFL supporters will plump for Robran as the best. I am a Norwood fan. But Aish and McIntosh are shaded by Barrie. It was cruel shame that the supposed best footy player broke the knee of the truly greatest Aussie Ruler of all time.
    You can tell a Vic…..but not very much

  17. Wonderful to read all the support for Barrie Robran from non north adelaide supports as well as true roosters

    And the stories from rabs and Rulebook from Toronto and prospect oval are both true

  18. Barrie Robran was a true Athelete and simple took others out of the game with skill and fitness like most Champions he was a Talent along with Barry Stringer

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