North Melbourne have paid tribute to influential powerbroker Ron Joseph as the "architect" of the club's rise to prominence in the 1970s and one of its saviours earlier this century.
A life member of the Kangaroos and the AFL, Joseph died on Tuesday aged 77 after battling lung cancer. Joseph arrived at Arden St as a teenager out of high school in 1964, initially as an assistant to the club secretary, and went on to become a legendary recruiter and administrator. Along with president Dr Allen Aylett and vice president Albert Mantello, Joseph famously helped lure coach Ron Barassi to North Melbourne in 1973.
Joseph is credited with signing 19 of the 20 players Barassi led to the Kangaroos' first VFL premiership in 1975. That was followed by another flag in 1977.
Later, Joseph helped convince James Brayshaw to join the North Melbourne board, with the pair going on to lead the club's resistance to being relocated to the Gold Coast in 2007. Joseph also teamed up with Barassi to help steer Sydney through a difficult period during the 1990s. He convinced champion goal-kicker Tony Lockett to head north to join the Swans in a move that helped transform the game in the Harbour City.
North Melbourne president Dr Sonja Hood said Joseph's name would be as ingrained in the club's history as that of any Kangaroos player.
"Ron was the architect of our success in the 1970s, one of the great defenders of our club in 2007 and unflinching in his love for North, holding successive boards and administrations to account, from within or outside of the organisation, always with a view to make the club better," Dr Hood said in a statement.
"On a personal note, I was lucky to work with him in 2007, and grateful for the time and advice he has provided in the years since.
"He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed."
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said Joseph was "central to the fabric" of football for five decades.
"Ron Joseph had football in his blood as an administrator determined to win for his club," McLachlan said in a statement.
"He was smart and canny, working the rules to his advantage every time, and was central in North Melbourne's rise to power.
"After more than two decades with the Kangaroos, he then took on a huge task for the game in Sydney, working again with Ron Barassi, and setting the foundations for its success today.
"He was bold, loud and combative, sometimes fiery, but built relationships everywhere with his football knowledge and a network that stretched through every part of the game.
"But beneath the loud exterior was a man who cared deeply about his family and friends and the players whose career he guided, the clubs he worked for and the code. He was deeply loyal to all of them." Joseph signed high-profile players David Dench, Wayne Schimmelbusch, Keith Greig, Malcolm Blight and Barry Cable, among others, for North Melbourne in the 1970s.
He also took advantage of the short-lived 10-year recruiting rule to lure Barry Davis, Doug Wade and John Rantall from rival clubs.
All would play roles in the Kangaroos' first successful era. Joseph went on to be the driving force behind North Melbourne recruiting Ross Glendinning and Krakouer brothers, Jim and Phil, during the 1980s.
In the late 1990s, Joseph was one of the competition's most influential player managers.