Frank Sanguinetti’s story started with the arrival in Australia of an Italian tailor back in the mid-1800s, extended through a successful football career before the First World War and continues to this day through his great grandchildren and their families.
And Collingwood has been the common thread through it all.
The family’s early story was dogged by tragedy. Frank’s grandfather – Giovanni Battista Sanguinetti, later anglicised to John – was born in Rapallo, a coastal town near Genoa in Italy, in 1833. He came to Melbourne in 1857 and set up a successful tailoring business in Little Collins Street which would later move to new premises in Collingwood and Abbotsford, and pass to Frank’s father, John.
Frank himself was born in Collingwood 1886, the third of three boys but the only one to make it into adulthood: the first born, Alberto, died at 10 months, while John Jnr (better known as Jack) died just before his 17th birthday, by which point he was already playing football with a local team called Collingwood Imperials. Then, shortly after he turned 16, Frank also lost his mother, Emily Purthynia: family lore has it that she died of a broken heart soon after Jack’s death. For Frank, this was a dual loss from which he never really recovered.
By this stage Frank had already begun playing football. But his career really took off when he joined the Collingwood District Football Club in 1908. The Districts had only formed in 1906, and by the time Frank joined were regarded as the unofficial ‘feeder’ club for Collingwood’s VFL team. He was also a member of the Collingwood Harriers (an athletics club), and the Bronzewing Cycling Club.
Frank would go on to be one of the longest-serving Collingwood District players of the era, playing a minimum of 67 games, with 13 goals, in a career that spanned six seasons between 1908 and 1913 (records from that era are incomplete so he may well have played more games). A solidly built type, he never cracked it for a senior game with Collingwood, but he did manage one senior game with Richmond. He also played alongside or against many who played at VFL level while with the Districts (though perhaps his most famous teammate at CDFC was Test cricketer and ‘King of Collingwood’, Jack Ryder)
Despite having played his one senior game for Richmond, Frank Sanguinetti always loved Collingwood – both the suburb and the football club. He passed that love onto all his children, perhaps most obviously to one of his sons, also called Frank. He in turn passed it on to his children, including one called Richard. And it’s with one of Richard’s daughters, Suzie, where we pick up the family story again.
By 1992, Frank Jnr was 79 and nearing the end of his life, when he called his 17-year-old granddaughter Suzie to his hospital bedside. As she would later write:
“I remember seeing him lying on the sterile steel bed with crisp white sheets looking a shadow of his former self. He comforted me as I flung myself onto him, tears streaming down my cheeks, stroking my hair and whispering kind and loving words to reassure me that he was in fact going to a better place.
“Once I was in a state of apparent control again, my Grandfather took on a very serious disposition and looked me directly in the eyes as I sat on the edge of his bed. This inevitable goodbye was something I'd been dreading for a while and here it was, looming in front of me. It turned out to be one of the fondest and most treasured memories of my childhood. My Grandfather delivered his dying wish to me ... that I follow in the tradition of the black and white, be a dedicated supporter and always be loyal to the club.
“Yes, this was the legacy of Frank Sanguinetti. I couldn't help but smile.”
Suzie has stayed true to her word. She has continued to follow Collingwood passionately throughout her life. She says her grandfather felt strongly about not only the Collingwood Football Club, but also about the traditions and passion that had developed around the family’s support of the mighty Magpies. So it’s no surprise that today, most of the large tribe of Sanguinetti cousins and families remain loyal Collingwood barrackers. All in honour of Frank.
Or as Suzie puts it, Frank Sanguinetti’s legacy continues.
If you have a story you think we should feature in This Collingwood Life, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org