If you wish to see the whole Italian Team of the Century, it’s available at: http://www.italianteamofthecentury.com.au/final-team.php
by Tony De Bolfo
Cecil William Pettiona
It’s nigh on a quarter of a century now since members of the South Melbourne football team of 1933 last took to the Lake Oval. They’ve all gone now – the likes of Brighton Diggins, Bill Faul, James O’Meara and “Ossie” Bertram – who made up the fabled “Foreign Legion”, having been brought together from all parts by the entrepreneurial chain-store king Archie Crofts.
Rubbing shoulders with South’s interstate imports in those days was the Bloods’ half-forward flanker Cecil Pettiona, the son of a Sardinian migrant who almost 50 years earlier completed an even greater pilgrimage, almost certainly in search of gold.
Injury unfortunately deprived Cecil of an appearance in South’s 1933 Grand Final victory, but he is still pictured rubbing shoulders with legendary characters like Bob Pratt and Laurie Nash in the team photograph taken later that year.
And such was the high regard in which he was held that on the completion of his fifth season, “Mr. C.W. Pettiona” was presented with a long service certificate, signed by the then South Melbourne President, Secretary and Treasurer, which read as follows;
We, the members of the Club, wishing to show our appreciation of your services during the past five years, beg you will accept the sentiments contained in this Certificate, as a token of our esteem and friendship.
We remember with very much pleasure the many occasions on which you have displayed your prowess in the manly sport of football, and have greatly admired the courtesy you invariably extended towards your comrades.
We have no hesitation in saying that your untiring zeal and energy, as one of our leading players, have most materially assisted in placing the Club in its present proud position.
We hope to see you still taking a foremost place in our ranks, and trust that your example may inspire the younger players with an earnest desire to uphold the prestige of the South Melbourne Football Club.
Trusting that this may ever remain a pleasing memento of our warm appreciation and regard.
We are, dear Sir, Yours sincerely,
Exactly when Cecil’s father Agostino (Augustus) set sail for Australia appears to have been lost with the passing of time. What is known is that in 1889 Augustus exchanged wedding vows in Melbourne with Eileen McNamara, the Australian-born girl whose father and mother hailed from County Clare and Tipperary respectively.
Their union would result in the birth of sons Thomas (the father of Charles), Augustus jun., Francis and John, a daughter Rita and another son, Cecil.
Eighty year-old Alma Hamilton Calderford Sharp, who was married to Cecil’s younger brother Allan Pettiona, said family members were now planning to access archival information in Rome to determine the exact origins of the family surname.
“We’re not even sure that the name was spelled right in the first instance,” Alma said. “Agostino may well have been illiterate when he came over from Italy and the name may have been altered in translation . . . back then it was a case of ‘any name will do’.”
Alma never really knew Augustus, who died barely a year after she and Allan began to keep company. But she was able to call on her wonderful memory in respect of Cecil and (even moreso) Cecil’s nephew Charles, even though she never saw either play.
“Cecil was always very dapper, very neat in his appearance. I always used to think that he loved himself,” Alma said.
“He was also a very nice man, very hospitable. When Allan and I took off on our honeymoon to Tasmania in 1947, Cecil, who was already living there, made sure we were looked after.”
Alma has no idea what prompted Cecil and his wife Daphne Myrtle Powell to relocate to the Apple Isle where they both lived out there lives, but recalled that Cecil served as a racetrack curator at Glenorchy and also as coach of North Hobart.
Cecil did not serve during wartime and he and Daphne did not have children.