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Locals to farewell icon

Thursday, 12th February, 2015

Rudi Alagich will be farewelled at the Civic Centre this afternoon. Rudi Alagich will be farewelled at the Civic Centre this afternoon.

By Darrin Manuel

Locals are expected to flock to the Civic Centre today to farewell Broken Hill icon Rudolph Alagich (OAM).

The civic event will serve as an opportunity to say goodbye to “Mr Football”, but also to celebrate Rudi’s multi-faceted life.

His story began in 1920 in Makarska, Dalmatia (in Croatia) where he lived for the first 12 years of life before moving to Broken Hill to join his father who was working on the Line of Lode.

He attended the Alma and Central schools and learned English and Australian customs while becoming heavily involved in the local Yugoslavian community and pursuing his love of soccer.

In 1936 he became president of the youth section of the Napredak Club, and also landed a job working for local tailor Mr Urbani.

He would go on to not only master the trade but to become instrumental in the birth of the local soccer competition.

In 1939 the Italian community challenged the Yugoslavs to a game of Australian Rules football, but as there were insufficient numbers, a soccer game was agreed upon instead.

The game attracted a huge crowd and was the unofficial beginning of the soccer here, giving rise to teams such as Alma, Napredak, Juventus and United.

The outbreak of World War II then pulled Rudi away from his beloved Silver City, as he was called up to serve in the Army’s 27th battalion in Darwin in 1942.

His leg was badly injured in an air raid, resulting in a seven-month stay in hospital in Adelaide, before he was discharged in 1943.

When he returned to Broken Hill he took a job at the Silverton Tramway and married Millie Ravlich, with the couple making a home in Piper Street and raising children Nancy and Richard.

By the late 1940s Rudi was looking to further his interests as a tailor, running a small business from home with the help of Millie.

In 1950 he opened a shop in Patton Street, and soon moved into new premises at the address where the store still stands.

In the years that followed Rudi devoted himself almost unceasingly to the Napredak Club and the local Soccer Association, holding a variety of senior positions in both.

He was also very active in the Good Neighbour Council and helped many migrants settle into the city, spending countless hours helping others learn the English language.

He also won a slew of medals and awards for his work with soccer and the Yugoslav community, including a Meritorious Award from the SA Football Association (1966), a citizenship award (1987) and a medal from the ambassador of Yugoslavia for his services to migrants (2000).

His biggest recognition occurred in 2000 when he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division (OAM) on the Queen’s Birthday.

Rudi’s contribution to the city is perhaps best summed up in an excerpt from his character profile in the Citizenship Awards in 1987:

“That the Broken Hill community is an outstanding Australian example of successful ethnic integration is a considerable credit to many. No member, however, of an ethnic community can take more credit than Rudi.

“The Broken Hill Community is proud to include among its members a citizen evincing Rudi’s many outstanding qualities.”

Those wishing to farewell Rudi are welcome to attend his funeral at the Civic Centre today at 1pm. 

(With thanks to Paul Armstrong for his research)

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