Veneto – The footy connection – Part 1

The Veneto market gardeners not only supplied much of Adelaide with quality vegetables but, along with many other South Australians from Italy, they also produced heaps of quality Aussie Rules footballers.

Michael Quirk, a 10-pound Pom migrant who, as a teenager, lived in Garden Terrace, Lockleys within a stone’s throw of the Marchioro glass houses, recounts how he forged lasting friendships with the sons of Veneto farmers and others, while playing footy for Thebarton YCW (Young Christian Workers).

He was particularly close to Johnny Marchioro and two other Australian-born Italians in the team – Vin Camporeale and Mario Petruzzelli who became his best friends. Friendships that last today.

Michael writes:

Jack and Dorothy Quirk, Michael and John, 1952. Photo courtesy Michael Quirk.

After coming from England with my parents and brother in 1952 when I was nine years, I attended Wallaroo Primary School and Kadina Memorial High School where I completed Leaving in 1958. I moved (aged 16 and a bit) to Adelaide to join my parents in Garden Terrace, Lockleys, near the corner of White Avenue.

John and Michael Quirk, 1952. Photo courtesy Michael Quirk.


I didn’t realise at the time just how lucky I was to be living there, so close to the rich culture of Italian Australians.

I wanted to play footy, but my new job as a copy boy with The Adelaide News, meant I had to work Saturdays, limiting my opportunities.

That is, until I heard about the YCW competition on Sundays.

Michael Quirk on right, 1959. Photo courtesy Michael Quirk.

The Thebarton YCW team is where I met Johnny, Vin and Mario and many other great young men with Italian parentage who played the 1959 season and beyond.

To say that the 1959 team was “hot” would be an understatement. It was packed with great players and we went on to win the Grand Final played at Norwood Oval in the team’s first year.


Johnny Marchioro, Rover for West Torrens, 1959. Photo courtesy Johnny Marchioro.



In addition to playing YCW footy on Sundays in 1959, Johnny played either A Grade or B Grade for West Torrens.Johnny was captain of the West Torrens Under 17 team on Saturdays, (winning the McCallum medal in 1957 for the competition’s Best and Fairest for the year). He, of course, went on to play four years of League with West Torrens. In one of the games in 1960 Johnny kicked six goals against Sturt.




Vin Camporeale and Michael Quirk, c 1959. Photo courtesy Michael Quirk.

Vin was captain of the South Adelaide Under 19s in 1959 so you can imagine what a roving combination he and Johnny made.

Vin did not play League but he had the capacity to easily make a team if he had wanted. He had an uncanny goal sense and read the play better than anyone I know.

This ability shone in 1961 when he kicked an incredible 26 goals for Seaton Ramblers against Colonel Light Gardens in the club’s first game in the South Australian Amateur Football League’s A3 Grade competition. The final score was 48.35 (323) to 4.2 (26) and the Ramblers went on to win the premiership in their first year. They still talk of Vin’s exploits at the club.

Other outstanding players in the 1959 Thebarton YCW team included “Venetos” Romeo Cavuoto, Guido “Reb” Rebuli, Frank and Jim Ballestrin and Bruno Piovesan.

A glimpse of play – Thebarton YCW football team, 1959. Photo courtesy Michael Quirk.

Romeo, Reb, and Brian Issacs (who was also in the Thebarton team, of ‘59), like Johnny, went on to play league for West Torrens while other 59ers, Eric Lavender and Bob Pascoe, played league for Woodville and North Adelaide and SA respectively.

Remember that back in those days league footballers were not paid mega bucks to play but, like Johnny, had to work back-breaking jobs all day before going to training. For many, like Johnny, their work ethic shortened their footy careers.

When the footy season finished, Thebarton YCW entered a team in the YCW basketball competition. Johnny, Vin, Mario and I all played and the team again won the competition in our first year.

I still remember with a smile how opposition teams became frustrated as Johnny, Vin, Mario and others communicated in Italian during the games. I joined in occasionally with a few unflattering Italian phrases I had picked up.

Michael Quirk
11 July 2021

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