AFL world in mourning after tragic death of Ray Gunston at 64

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Ray Gunston, pictured here with former Essendon champion Paul Little in 2013.
Ray Gunston and former Essendon champion Paul Little in 2013. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The AFL world is mourning the tragic death of former Essendon chief executive Ray Gunston at age 64.

The father of Hawthorn's three-time premiership forward Jack Gunston, Ray suffered a heart attack on Tuesday at his home in Southbank.

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Gunston served as Essendon's interim CEO during the drugs saga in 2013, having previously served on the Bombers’ board.

He also held a number of roles at the AFL under chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

“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,” McLachlan said in a statement.

“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’ earned 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.”

Ray Gunston, pictured here during a VFL game between Werribee and Essendon in 2013.
Ray Gunston looks on during a VFL game between Werribee and Essendon in 2013. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Gunston is survived by wife Mandy, son Jack, daughter Kate and granddaughter Scarlett.

AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder said Gunston’s work in 2020 when the Covid pandemic heavily impacted the game was crucial.

"We will long remember Ray’s contribution to the AFL and football," Goyder said.

"His legacy contributions included the acquisition of Marvel Stadium and raising a credit facility during Covid that helped the industry get through it.

"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."

Ray Gunston, pictured here with Simon Goodwin during an Essendon Bombers training session in 2013.
Ray Gunston with Simon Goodwin during an Essendon Bombers training session in 2013. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

AFL world in mourning over death of Ray Gunston

Gunston served as general manager of finance, corporate and major projects at AFL House.

He was previously the chief financial officer of the Tatts Group.

The 64-year-old also held executive roles with Westpac, Price Waterhouse, Aluminium Smelters of Victoria, Southern Cross Austereo and the Victorian Government.

“He was a loving husband, father and grandfather who never missed one of Jack’s matches," Hawthorn said in a statement.

"He was an important part of the Hawthorn family and our thoughts are with Mandy, Jack and Kate and those close to them at this time.”

Gunston also had a playing career of his own, helping Strathmore win the 1984 premiership in the Essendon District Football League.

He also played for Brunswick in the Victorian Football League from 1979-81.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media after the devastating news.

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