Barry Round
193 games
157 goals
Best & Fairest 1979, 1981
Brownlow Medal 1981
Captain 1980-1984
Swans Team of the Century
AFL Hall of Fame


Optimism is the foundation of courage and true progress. Thankfully, Barry Round had it in spades.

On Wednesday, July 1, 1981, South Melbourne formally approached the VFL to fixture all home games for the 1982 season in Sydney. The next day, two of the three major Melbourne daily newspapers broke the story, with The Sun famously declaring the severity of the situation with their headline: 'SYDNEY OR BUST!'

With the club in financial turmoil, its directors agreed that relocation was the only viable option. Most players did too, and they're adamant that the groundbreaking move may never have happened without Round's steadying influence.

As strong leaders do, Round stood resolute. He later described that tumultuous time. "Let's get one thing straight. The players loved playing at South Melbourne, and we didn't want to move anywhere," he said.

"There were very sad scenes. As captain, I copped it, too. The supporters would say, 'Why are you taking our club away from us? We've supported them for years and years', and I understood all that; we were very mindful of it. I felt guilty, and I felt sad."

The fact is South Melbourne's precarious position coincided with the League's growing interest in exploring the country's biggest sporting market. However, the League's motivations had as much to do with economics as any visionary ideology, with expansion their means to survival.

There are certain situations where the world around you is of no help—in fact, sometimes you must act despite it. So, standing straight with shoulders back, Round and his teammates pioneered what we now know as the national competition. 

And it took an unshakeable belief to make it work. Severely undercapitalised by the VFL, Swans players and officials were essentially left to fend for themselves. In 1983, when the club permanently relocated, Round needed to balance his critical on-field role with relocating his young family to a foreign city.

"We felt we were definitely under-resourced when we first moved to Sydney. We were sent up there on a shoestring budget. We had no gymnasium, no training grounds with lights, and by the time everyone knocked off work, it'd be dark," Round said. 

"We weren't full-time footballers in those days. We were going to Australia's largest city, we had to find somewhere to live, try and find a job, and then go out and try to win a game of footy on the weekend. I had two kids of school age and had to find a school, with no idea of what any of the areas were like up there. It was tough, real tough."

Courageous on and off the field, Round became the cornerstone from which the foundations of the Sydney Swans were built.

Before the 1976 season, Swans coach Ian Stewart received a phone call from Footscray legend Ted Whitten. He told Stewart that a ruckman named Round was available after battling for opportunity behind the Bulldogs' first ruck and 1975 Brownlow Medallist, Gary Dempsey.

“We met Roundy on the building site he was working on, but on the way there, I thought we’d better get a bit of money, so I took $5,000 out of my bank account, because the club didn’t have much money in those days,” Stewart recalled. “We spoke to him about giving him plenty of ruck work, and convinced him to come to the Swans. Luckily we did, because about an hour later, Carlton turned up to talk to him.”

And, the rest is history. The Swans' newest big man made an immediate impact, playing a crucial role in the team's rise to prominence, participating in the 1977 Finals Series. 

It would, however, prove a false dawn. The dramatic shift in football's landscape meant the Swans struggled to keep pace with the competition's heavyweights. VFL clubs had grown into more commercially ambitious entities, and as a result, social and economic developments were having a pronounced impact on the game. 

By 1980, Round was appointed Swans captain. He was now thriving in the first ruck role, with his big-hearted efforts winning acclaim across the League. For his size, 193cm and 105kg, Round's aerobic ability set him apart. Wholeheartedness around the ball, complimented by a thirst for marking all over the ground and an ability to kick crucial goals, made him a formidable figure.

The team showed improvement that year, and amid the relocation restlessness, Round kept the drama at bay to win the 1981 Brownlow Medal. He remembered that night fondly, sharing the honours with one of his best mates, Footscray and Fitzroy champion Bernie Quinlan.

"It was a terrific experience. I can remember when we got up to the room upstairs, Graeme John (South Melbourne president) and the South Melbourne boys had a room booked just in case I won. I think I had my fair share of drinks," Round recalled.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and when the first game as the home team in Sydney arrived in 1982, a mix of excitement, uncertainty, and pressure took hold. The Swans faced Melbourne at the SCG on a landmark occasion.

The expectation in football circles was that the Swans would emerge victorious and provide the League with the result they anticipated. The pressure to win from those at VFL headquarters built to unprecedented levels, and when the Demons looked as though they might snatch a late victory, Round stood tall.

He had 23 disposals, 21 hit-outs and took seven marks to lead the way, along with his trusted deputy, Mark Browning. The pair had been instrumental in making the decision to move north, and it was only fitting that they influenced the inaugural Sydney win in such a dominant fashion.

At the time, the VFL held the Escort Cup—a Night Premiership, played as a midweek knockout competition. The triumphant team would collect a significant financial windfall in addition to the prestige that silverware brings.

In July, the Swans defeated a star-studded North Melbourne team in the 1982 Night Premiership Grand Final. Swans supporters shared in the celebrations as their heroes claimed the club's first trophy since the 1960 Night Premiership. Just months prior, they were unsure if they would have a team to support at all. As Round made his victory speech, hundreds of fans made their way towards the bowels of VFL Park in the hope of entering the victorious rooms.

While the club's loyal Melbourne-based fans revelled in the victory, Round also sent a poignant message to those behind the Sydney move. "A special cheerio to the people in Sydney. We won it for you, too," he said. 

Mark Browning describes that achievement as the most symbolic moment of that crucial Swans era. He believes the iconic photo of Round hoisting the trophy captures the efforts of everyone involved in the move and the turbulent early days in Sydney. It also represented hope for the future.

Barry Round is one of the most impactful figures in Swans history – the embodiment of positivity and leadership. Sadly, he passed away in 2022, aged 72. His legacy lives on, with Sydney’s highly-coveted 'Best Clubman' award named after him. In perpetuity, it is to be known as the Barry Round Best Clubman Award.

For one loved by so many, it's the perfect dedication.

Round’s friend, and former coach, Stewart also paid tribute, “Barry was a very special person and a special footballer. He was a bit like a pied piper and his inspiration on the field came from pure hard work and dedication. Roundy became the best player I coached, and he was the best team man I’ve ever seen in my football days.”