Almanac Family History: Tina Ongarello Reminisces


Ongarello family


I  was already well and truly a Collingwood supporter before I knew I had a famous uncle!  My dad grew up in Thornbury and as a little boy his neighbour took him to Collingwood matches, when Uncle Tony played for Fitzroy dad followed his career, but once Uncle Tony retired, it was back to Vic Park where dad and a bunch of blokes from Diamond Creek would gather in the Social Club and watch the game over a few bottles of red wine no doubt.


I don’t remember Uncle Tony playing as he retired before I was born, but ever since I was old enough to have conversations with adults, they always commented on my name and asked if I was any relation to “Tony Ongarello” then they add, great mark, pity he could not kick!! I love that he was the last man to do a “place” kick in VFL/AFL. My dad has a wonderful framed photo of Uncle Tony in his billiard room taking a “spekky” over a bulldog player.  I watched  him  on “Channel 2”as a commentator,  and was so proud that I knew someone famous!  Once at Victoria Park “Butch”Alan Gale allowed me to sit in the commentary box with him whilst he commentated on a game, he and Uncle Tony were great mates.


We had a great upbringing.  My grandfather Gino bought land in Diamond Creek, each of his four sons had a block of land to build on, when I was a little girl growing up my next door neighbours were my Uncle Tony, his wife Aunty Ann and their children, Michael, Deborah and Anthony, then down the hill was my Uncle Peter and Aunty Celia with their 3 children Mark, Andrew & Christopher.  My dad was the oldest – Arthur and my mum Rosa, I was one of 5, Bobby, Stephen, Christina (me) David & Karen.



Family kick to kick


I have wonderful memories of running around in paddocks, kicking footballs, having family picnics, and there was also an  Ongarello/Dimattina Football match, held at a tiny oval in Wattle Glen, that was an absolute highlight, in fact I think the Dimattina’s still have an annual football match against themselves.


My Dad’s mum, Felicia was the sister of Frank Dimattina’s mother Aunty Lena, so there was always plenty of football and cricket talk and cousins to play tippety runs with in the  paddocks.


I remember going to Frank’s engagement, I was only very young and there were a lot of Richmond players there, but I told them I was a Magpie, and it was either Barry Richardson  or Mike Green that threw me up in the air and told me I had to barrack for Richmond, but I was dad’s little girl and was always going to be a Magpie.


My mum always followed Richmond and because dad would not take me to the footy until I was 10 years old, I used to go to Richmond matches with mum and her cousin Anthony Dimattina and his children, they would tease me if Collingwood were losing, as I spent a lot of time checking out the scoreboard to see the results of other games!


Of course I was so excited when dad would finally take me to a Collingwood game,  I eventually joined the Cheer Squad.  I have kept the Social Club tradition going and meet with friends in the Lindsay Hassett room every Collingwood Home Game.  My youngest daughter Shelbie has also started to come with me and shows the same enthusiasm as I had.


So between the Ongarello/Dimattina family there is definitely an allegiance to Fitzroy and Richmond but never any family conflict or arguments over who to follow.




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  1. Tina Ongarello says

    Thanks John! Great Article and brings back lots of memories! Tina

  2. Michelle Ongarello says

    it is so great to learn all this family history! I love it!!

  3. Great piece Tina. All those years ago, Tony and your dad, were the first two neighbours to welcome me to Diamond Creek. As you well know, me being a passionate Fitzroy supporter, it vwas nice to meet Tony again. He and another Fitzroy player visited my place once when I was just a kid. I was playing footy in the street and gave me two bob to spend. Arthur was a great bloke and I always enjoyed meeting and talking with him. I still think however, that he had more than just a little bit of love for the mighty lions. Love, always, to all your extended clan. Haydn S

  4. Beautiful Melbourne story. I went to schoo with the Ongarellos in Diamond Creek. They loved the Maggies, as did we.

  5. Brilliant memoir, Tina.

  6. A very enjoyable story and some great photos – I especially love the kick-to-kick one.

  7. I’m old enough to recall Tony playing footy. He was a ripper mark and a great competitor. When I was a boy I followed Prahran in the VFA. I remember in about 1956 a past v present players Prahran match. Paddy Walsh, then the Prahran skipper kicked a place kick shot for goal that day. It was the 1st and only time I ever saw one used in Australian Rules football (for the record, he missed).
    Thanks for the article. Great memories of a bygone era when footy was far more tribal than it is today.

  8. Bernard Whimpress says

    A great story and especially given my story posted yesterday on the place kick that I discover that your uncle was the last man to kick one in the VFL.

  9. John Mitchell says

    Two great articles. I immediately thought of another place kick in senior football.
    A year after Tony Ongarello’s place kicks, Mick Clingly kicked a place kick goal for West Torrens against Sturt at Unley Oval in the SANFL. The circumstances were a little different though. Mick Clingly, who was a larger than life character, ended the match with 12 goals and his place kick was construed as Mick lairising. Coincidentally after retiring from footy in about 1960 like Tony Ongarello in Victoria, Mick Clingly was a commentator and around the grounds expert for both the ABC and commercial radio stations in Adelaide.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Really enjoyed this Tina, especially the four brothers living next door to each other, cousins growing up together and the Dimattina connection.

  11. Chris Bickley says

    Lovely reading this article Tina. It is Tuesday Jan 19th and my dad and I are having seniors’ meals in the Diamond Creek Tavern and reminiscing about the old days at Fitzroy. Dad played with Fitzroy 1948-51 and is still going strong at 89. I stumbled upon your article after googling Diamond Creek Fitzroy to see if there was a connection.

  12. Shane Reid says

    I really enjoyed this Tina. I had the great pleasure of meeting your Uncle Tony at a Fitzroy past players dinner a few years ago. When I said “Thank you Mr Ongarello” for signing an autograph he quickly said “enough of this Mr Ongarello garbage – call me Tony!”

  13. roger lowrey says

    Beautiful piece of writing Tina.

    My only distant idiosyncratic memory of Tony was his claim to be the last known VFL player to smoke a pipe at 3/4 time.

    Of course I mean no disrespect in retelling this as, on a separate but kinda related topic, Tony Polinelli and Sam Newman both tell tales of how the Geelong trainers used to provide players access to a flagon of sherry at 3/4 time on cold days.

    Mind you it couldn’t have done the former too much harm as he was a Stawell Gift starter back in the day.

    You do what you have to do huh?


  14. LAURIE LAFFAN says

    Great memories of old Fitzroy.Pete Sheean and I travelled by train and tram from Glenroy to Brunswick St to watch the Gorillas play the Bombers.I was about 15 [1958/9???] and visiting my old stomping ground from Canberra.Thats the day I watched Tony Ongarello place kick for goal. I think he had a couple of drop kicks for goal before giving the place kick a go.Memorable but I can’t remember how many he got!
    Before and after the 2001 Premiership I was dining at Dimmatinas in Lygon St, wearing my Fitzroy scarf and beanie which I had bought at the MCG on the last game the Roys played there and I remember the Dimmatinas were all very keen for The Lions to win. Little did I know of the families’ history. GF night at Dimmatinas was the night I met Maurie Hearn and his daughter. Maurie was Captain of Fitzroy in the 1944 Premiership [the year I was born]. I videoed a few moments with him.I must get it out and have a look. He and his brother bought the Tennyson Hotel in Port Fairy after his career finished with Fitzroy.My Great Grandfather Patrick Tennyson founded the Tennyson Hotel. How about that for a coincidence??

  15. Neil barter says

    Not sure about the drop kicks But the place kicks were great. He stuck with them for a few matches only. Played at centre half back after that.

  16. Neil barter says

    The South!elbourne full forward earlier in that year tried the place kick, but he didn’t kick any goals with it. Tony’s efforts were time consuming and also his point of contact with the ball was a long way further out from goal than his original mark.

  17. Paul Grafen says

    Great piece Tina. Tony used to drop Michael at our place on his way to Ripponlea to do a show for the ABC. I was about 7yo then I think (born in 1963) My dad Bill Grafen was a good friend of Tony’s from Thornbury from when they were young. I was so amazed that I saw Tony in person and then an hour later he was on TV!

  18. David Fedley says

    I used to run out on the ground at three quarter time to pass the cigarettes around to the players, at Fitzroy`s home games. Cant remember if Tony Ongarello had his pipe or not. Was born in North Fitzroy when Fitzroy were the Gorilla`s and when they changed their name to the Lions my Grandmother donated a large framed photo of a Lion to them. Maybe it is still around. I can remember going to the Footscray ground many, many years ago on the bus that left at the Lord Newry Hotel to watch Fitzroy play Footscray in pouring rain. I was only a little tacker ( but idolised Fitzroy) and I stood in the rain for the whole day watching Fitzroy go goalless right up to the last quarter when Alan Ruthen kicked Fitzroy`s only goal for the day. Everything in my world was FITZROY and my life has never been the same since they went to Brisbane.

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