Italian Team of the Century- Cecil Pettiona

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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.


  1. It appears Alan Pettiona was in fact the nephew of Cecil and the son of Thomas Joseph who was the elder of Augustus’ children. My father’s Aunt Sylvia was married to John Pettiona and another brother of Cecil’s. Now I know why my Family were such huge South Melbourne Fans.
    Also Cecil’s wife was a Tasmanian Girl and they married there in 1941. It would be nice to know what attracted Cecil to go there in the first place, or was it just his sporting career?

  2. Denise Coomer says


    I’m Rita (nee Pettiona) Johnson Grand daughter and I would like to correct some information that your have written above :-

    Augustino married Ellen McNamara not Eileen.

    With my family tree research I have discovered that Augustino arrived in Melbourne via London on the barque “Ganges” as a member of the crew. The ship was wrecked off Point Lonsdale on 8th August 1887.

    The correct spelling of his surname was Pettinau, somehow the spelling became Pettiona.

    I hope the above information is helpful to you.

    Denise :)

  3. Serena Cocco Pettinau says

    Hi, my name is Serena Cocco Pettinau, I write from Sardinia exactly from Cagliari. I would be happy to help you in getting more information about the origin of your family. Augustino Pettiona was in fact the cousin of my great-grandfather, they were children of two brothers. Your original name is Pettinau and I can give you information about our family to the seventh generation (first half of 1700). A year ago I was contacted by Denise through a website of genealogical research but unfortunately her mail had been lost. Only now I was able to read it and I’m trying to contact you to give you all the information.

  4. Denise Howship says

    Question : My fathers father who was know as Jim Brennan lived with Cecil in south Melbourne during his football career .They were best friends. Both apparently moved backed to North Hobart. Cecil lived close to the race track where he was curator off. My grandfather was a book maker in Tasmania. My question is does anyone know about their relationship as my history of my grandfather is very vague as apparently his name was changed to Brennan because him and his brother were raised by a nurse Brennan . We are trying to find his original birth name . As they were so close I am sure there might have been some talk about their pass. My grandfathers birth certificate says he was born in Geelong … no other information . He lost his leg in Hobart in the 30’s …. Any information would be great. I also have pictures of Cecil with my grandfather . I also have other stories as my father is still alive and has this information .
    Cheers Denise Howship

  5. Hi my name is Paula Pettiona and I know Kevin who is now deceased could have answered all your questions.. I met Cecil at Christmas many years ago, and I think he had his friend with him.. Kevin’s a second cousin of mine.. He has a brother Tommy that might have more information for you.. He did live on the Gold Coast or Hamilton Island .. I’m sorry I have had no contact with them for years… And I’m not sure if Tommy is still alive .. He would be your best contact now .. He always was very involved with the horses.. His brother Kevin was a bookmaker.. Cheers Paula

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