Thursday 02 June 2016

The Alagich family and Australian football

1969 Socceroos

Australia’s 1969 squad before the World Cup qualification matches. Back row, left to right: Les Bordacs, manager, Alan Marnoch, John Watkiss, Stan Ackerley, George Keith, Tom Patrick, official, Joe Vlasits, coach. Middle row: Dr Brian Corrigan, physician, Ron Corry, Gary Manuel, David Zeman, Don Sandell, Ray Baartz, Jim Fraser, Brian Le Fevre, ASF Secretary. Front row: John Perin, Billy Vojtek, Atti Abonyi, Johnny Warren, Willie Rutherford, Danny Walsh, Joe Alagic, Tommy McColl.

The Alagich family and Australian football

Roy Hay

Few families have made as big a sustained contribution to Australian football as the Alagichs. Whether this can be attributed to their heritage or ethnic background or whether it resulted purely from family or personal preference can be debated, but the extent of their involvement is remarkable. The Alagich family produced male and female Australian representatives, state and national league players and one of the country’s leading coaches and educators. Les Murray presented a collective biography of the Alagich family on SBS television on 16 March 2008.

Josip Alagich arrived in Australia in 1924 from Makarska in Dalmatia. He had been a member of the socialist and republican movements in Croatia while serving in the navy, participating in the uprising of 1918. He had three sons, Marin, Rudolph and Slavko by his wife Trifona, but separated from her and brought the boys to Australia in 1932. Settling in Broken Hill, Josip worked in the mines and was a leader in the mining union movement.

Marin was a boxer and footballer and helped form the Broken Hill Soccer Association in 1938. He was also strongly involved in trade unionism. After a spell in the army during the Second World War he worked in defence factories in Sydney and later trained as a teacher. He was determined to counter prejudice against the new Australian migrants through sport and formed the Sydney Yugoslav Soccer Club in 1946, and helped organise the tour by Hajduk Split in 1949. He was also a key figure in the foundation of a number of other clubs including Brookvale, Oryin and Yugal, the last of which became one of the leading clubs in the New South Wales first division in the 1960s. One of the pioneers of multiculturalism in Australia his work was recognised by the award of a British Empire Medal, the Order of Australia Medal and life membership of the ALP.

Marin Alagich and Bob Hawke

Joe Alagich, Marin’s son, was a star of the Yugal Ryde team in the 1960s and early 1970s. A small, fast winger he played over 260 games and scored over 100 goals in 16 seasons with the club. He was part of the squad selected for the 1969 Socceroos who embarked on an ultimately unsuccessful bid to qualify for the World Cup in Mexico in 1970. He also represented New South Wales, but the competition for the wing berths at state and national level was intense and Sid Grant wondered why he was overlooked when speed was needed in the national team.

Frank Haffey of St George challenges Joe Alagich (right) of Yugal.

Colin Alagich, the son of Slavko, played in Port Adelaide, and was a long time official of the Port Adelaide club and wrote the history of the game in that area.[i]

Colin’s son, Richie Alagich, played more than 250 games in total for West Adelaide, South Melbourne and Brisbane Strikers in the National Soccer League and Adelaide United in the A-League. A schoolboy international, he represented Australia at Youth and Olympic level. When the A-League began he returned to Adelaide United and became its club champion and won the players’ player award. In 2008 he took part in the Asian Champions League as Adelaide United reached the final, the only Australian team to do so. He retired in 2008 with over 100 A-League games to his credit and took up coaching.

Richie Alagich for South Melbourne (left) and Festim Zekiri

Colin’s daughter Dianne was a star with the Matildas, playing for more than a decade at the top level of the women’s game. She got her first cap when she was only sixteen years old. Dianne Alagich played 86 times for Australia and her last game was on 12 July 2009. She was part of three successive World Cup qualification campaigns in 1999, 2003 and 2007. Serious knee injuries saw her out of the game for two years but she came back to play in the W-League and for the Matildas. In her club career, Dianne represented Port Adelaide, West Adelaide, Adelaide Sensation, the South Australian Institute of Sport and the San Jose CyberRays in the US Women’s League.

Dianne Alagich (left) in action for the Matildas against Brazil

Richard Alagich, the son of Rudolph, is one of Australia’s leading coach educators, completing a degree in sports science in Zagreb. He is the author of several coaching books and a critic of the physical type of play which dominated Australian football over many years.[ii] Always controversial, he resigned as coach of Manly in the New South Wales State League in 1976 after sensational press reports about his showing a film of Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz to his team shortly before they took the field against Melita Eagles.[iii] He coached youth teams at State and National levels and was technical director of Australia’s first Soccer Apprenticeship Scheme and former Soccer NSW REP Program Director. He has been involved with the Pacific Umbro Soccer Camp program since 1978.

Younger members of the family are involved in football in a variety of ways today and the Alagichs will make more contributions to the game at all levels in the future.

[i] Colin Alagich, 100 Years of the World Game.

[ii] Richard Alagich, Soccer: Winning through Technique and Tactics. Les Murray and Richard Alagich, So, you want to be a coach.

[iii] Soccer Action 19 July 1978.

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