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.
— AFL (@AFL) July 5, 2022
“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.”
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."
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.
The club is in mourning following the unexpected passing of former interim CEO and board member Ray Gunston.
— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) July 5, 2022
Ray Gunston was the best of men. With his exceptional career in AFL administration & Tattersalls, it’s often forgotten that he stepped up to chair @GRV_News after live baiting. It’s not overstating things to say he helped save the code. A beautiful guy gone way too soon. Vale Ray
— Martin Pakula (@MartinPakulaMP) July 5, 2022
Ray Gunston was an eminently decent and wise leader within the @AFL community. He often provided valuable guidance and encouragement to our club. On behalf of the entire @Richmond_FC I extend our sincere condolences to Ray Gunston's family and friends.
— Brendon Gale (@brendongale25) July 5, 2022
So sad to hear about Ray Gunston's shock passing. Always a warm and engaging person who took on a host of roles to fix problems here, there and everywhere. Invariably, he fixed those problems. Gone way too soon. Deepest sympathy to Jack and the Gunston family.
— Glenn McFarlane (@MaccaHeraldSun) July 5, 2022
So sad to hear of the passing of Ray Gunston. The quiet Mr Fixit always polite, genuine, respectful and up for chin wag.
— Mark Stevens (@StevoMedia) July 5, 2022
Sad news, a very decent man and a very capable administrator. Condolences to Ray's family and friends.
Ex-AFL executive Ray Gunston, father of Hawthorn star, dies https://t.co/U6PPbpdY0J
— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) July 5, 2022
So sad to hear about the passing of Ray Gunston. Super friendly as a colleague at the AFL and so helpful when writing stories that covered his area at the League. Except for COVID, never missed a game Jack played, at home or interstate. Vale.
— Ashley Browne (@hashbrowne) July 5, 2022
So shocked to hear of the passing of @AFL Ray Gunston. As a fellow advisory board member at @delawarenorth Ray was both incredibly smart and an honest decent man.Much love to Mandy and the family. RIP Ray 🥲
— Steven Wright (@smwright1965) July 5, 2022
Horrible to hear the passing of Ray Gunston, a genuinely lovely man who was a fantastic administrator across so many sports and industries. Was lucky to know him for over 20 years, just a warm and intelligent person. He will be missed. Condolences to his family and friends.
— Shane Anderson (@Globalgallop) July 5, 2022
The Box Hill Hawks are saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Gunston.
An outstanding member of the football family, Ray will be greatly missed.
The Club’s board, staff and players extend our condolences to Mandy, Jack and Kate.
— Box Hill Hawks (@BoxHillHawks) July 5, 2022
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