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In Memoriam: Mirko Hrkac

Mirko Hrkac (8 August 1938-3 September 2014)
Geelong’s football community will pause on Friday to remember and celebrate the life and contribution of one of its unsung heroes, Mirko Hrkac. A most modest and unassuming man he was part of the founding generation of North Geelong soccer club in 1967, its first president, and supported it through thick and thin thereafter.

Until his recent illness he was a constant figure in all club activities, prepared to offer guidance and advice, but only if you sought him out. He never put himself forward and so his influence was not always appreciated.

He was born in 1938 and came to Australia in 1961 as part of that generation of migrants of Croatian heritage who arrived in the aftermath of the Second World War and built lives, careers and families in this country. He followed a well-known route through the migrant camp at Bonegilla to sugar cane cutting in the north before settling in Footscray. His next move was to Geelong where he worked at Rylands, the wire rope company, becoming a foreman. He met his future wife Eleftheria and they were married in 1963. They had three children, John and his two sisters, Iva and Maria.

Like so many young Croatians Mirko Hrkac had an interest in soccer but in 1962–3 the Geelong and Melbourne Croatian clubs merged to form a single club to play in the Victorian State League. It was based in Melbourne. For the next four years there was no senior club locally to represent the community until Mirko Hrkac, Ivan Sesar, Aldo Siketa and the Radojevic brothers, Vinko and Joe, got together to form the North Geelong club. Mirko became the first president and for the next twenty years and more he was either in office or carrying out all the relevant functions behind the scenes. This was brought home to me when I realised that though I have hundreds of photographs of North Geelong’s teams and matches and functions, I did not have one in which Mirko Hrkac was front and central.

Clubs in those days were self-help organisations and everyone was expected to contribute. Mirko and his brother Pavo built goalposts and facilities, marked the grounds at Hume Reserve and collected bottle tops to help pay for football jerseys and shorts. Today North Geelong has a superb facility in the Australian-Croatian Sports Centre at Elcho Park, Lara. As a carpenter, Mirko Hrkac helped with its construction and fitting.

His son John became a star of the club, playing for it many years. He sometimes turned out in goal for the seniors, but it was as a striker that he was best known, being for many years the top aggregate goalscorer in the Geelong Advertiser Cup. Now a leading Geelong accountant, he recently turned out in the Australian Masters’ Championships when they were held here last year. For Mirko, the fact that his son and his family absorbed the ethos of service to the community would be the legacy of which he was most proud.

A minute’s silence was observed at all North Geelong’s junior games this weekend. Mirko Hrkac’s life will be celebrated at Holy Family Church in Separation Street on Friday at 10 am.

Courtesy of Roy Hay

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