AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan today said the league and the game was in mourning for former AFL Executive Ray Gunston.
Ray, 64, passed away this morning after suffering a heart attack at his home in Southbank – he is survived by his loving wife Mandy, son Jack, daughter Kate and granddaughter Scarlett.
Gunston had filled a range of senior roles across football, as well as a previous outstanding career in business life, and McLachlan said he had been a wise and steady hand for all who had worked with him.
"Ray was an extremely valued member of the AFL Executive in the time he worked at AFL House, with both his ability to lead and complete major projects, and for his strong values and ethical framework in how he conducted himself.
"He was a valuable mentor to a range of leaders across our industry and it was my privilege to both work with him, and to count he and Mandy as friends.
"Ray was regarded incredibly high within the industry; he was wise and tough. His inability to say 'yes' earnt him the nickname within AFL House of ‘The Wall'. His work ethic was prodigious and his working day diet famous, surviving on plain Saladas and chewed fingernails."
"Ray was greatly loved across the football landscape and our thoughts are with Mandy, Jack and Kate and their wider family at this tragic time for them." Mr McLachlan said.
AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder paid tribute to Ray's legacy at the AFL.
"We will long remember Ray's contribution to the AFL and football. His legacy contributions included the acquisition of Marvel Stadium and raising a credit facility during Covid that helped the industry get through it." Mr Goyder said.
"Ray was also a proud footballing father, attending Jack's matches for Adelaide and Hawthorn and not being able to sit still in his seat, he was often seen pacing around the stadium concourse during those matches."
At the AFL, Ray Gunston had worked as CFO and General Manager of Infrastructure, Major Projects and Investment, after previously having served as Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Essendon Football Club. At league headquarters, he had chaired the AFL Investment committee, overseen all non-operational investments and negotiations and overseen the capital management and structuring of the AFL balance sheet.
Before working in football, his many senior roles had included Chief Financial Officer of the Tatts Group, executive roles with Westpac, Price Waterhouse, Aluminium Smelters of Victoria, Southern Cross Austereo and the Victorian Government. He was a non-executive director and Chairman of Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Hotel Property Investments and Melbourne Stadiums Limited. He was also a non-executive director AFL Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades.
Ray played a leading role in the transformation of the privately owned Tattersall's into the publicly listed Tatts Group as an ASX 100 listed national and global company, followed by initiating and implementing the $4 billion merger of Tatts and UNITAB. He also played a lead executive role in acquisitions for the Tatts Group.
While son Jack has carved out an exceptional AFL career, Ray was an outstanding player with Strathmore in the EDFL for the majority of his career and for three years with Brunswick in the VFA (1979-81). He began with Strathmore in 1967 at junior level, and was a member of the 1984 premiership team, and was honoured with Life Membership in 1989, with his parents also being life members at the club.
A dedicated club man, Ray said at the time, "I was very proud and honoured to have received Life Membership in 1989 from the Club that had honoured both my parents previously with Life Memberships given their dedication and love for the Club and the people they enjoyed being with."