1975 Premiership players Barry Davis (left) and John Burns hold the cup with coach Ron Barassi (centre) before a North Melbourne Kangaroos training session at Aegis Park, Melbourne on February 25, 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

BARRY Davis, who has the rare distinction of top playing honours at two AFL clubs, has died aged 80.

Davis was a premiership player, best and fairest winner and captain at Essendon and then North Melbourne in his 1961-75 playing career.

He is a life member at the two clubs, a member of their teams of the century and a 1997 inductee into the Australian Football Hall Of Fame.

He also coached the Bombers in 1978-80 before resigning and is credited with laying plenty of groundwork for his successor Kevin Sheedy, who broke their premiership drought in 1984.

Davis was a key figure in North's 1973 recruiting coup, when the Kangaroos took full advantage of the then-VFL's new 10-year rule.

Under the rule, players who had served their clubs for a decade could move to another team of their choice.

Kevin Sheedy (left) speaks with former player and coach Barry Davis during a 1980's AFL function. Picture: AFL Photos

The Kangaroos swooped and recruited Davis from Essendon, as well as South Melbourne's John Rantall and Geelong key forward Doug Wade.

All were current or former captains at their previous clubs and the VFL scrapped the rule soon after.

Davis captained North to its inaugural 1975 premiership and then retired.

"Barry Davis was a brilliant defender and ruck rover who was one of the greats of the VFL in the 1960s and 1970s," AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said in a tribute.

Barry Davis was head coach for the Essendon Bombers from 1978-1980. Picture: AFL Photos

"A triple premiership player and five-time best and fairest winner across his career, he was also a regular state representative for Victoria and a hero to young fans at both of his clubs.

"Barry will be remembered as a pivotal player at both the Bombers and the Kangaroos and we send our sympathies to his family, many friends and past teammates."

Davis played 218 games for Essendon and played in its 1962 and '65 premiership teams.

He was a three-time best and fairest winner at the Bombers and captained them in 1970-71 as well as twice finishing runner-up in the Brownlow Medal.

Ron Barassi with Barry Davis during the round five match between North Melbourne and Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, May 02, 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

"When Essendon people think of Barry, they will remember him both as a champion player and true gentleman," said Bombers chief executive Craig Vozzo.

Davis captained the Kangaroos in his 71 games from 1973-75 and won their '73 and '75 best and fairest honours, for a career total of 289.

"So many people connected to that first great era of our club credit Barry - alongside coach Ron Barassi - with lifting the expectation of our players and supporters after a long run without the ultimate success," said North president Sonja Hood.

Davis also played 11 games for Victoria.

In 2002, Essendon ranked him at No.15 among its 25 greatest players.