It is with the heaviest of hearts that the Melbourne Knights Football Club and Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club mark the passing of Mirko “Rus” Rastocic.
Mirko, affectionately known by his nickname of Rus – was the heart and soul of the club for nearly three decades.
Mirko was born in Nova Sela near Metkovic – Croatia on the 9th of August 1940, to Jure and Jurka Rastocic (née Carapina) as the second of four children.
He excelled at sport, especially rowing which is a popular pastime in his native Metkovic – and at one point was considered an Olympic team candidate.
Mirko was married to Ivka Celic in Metkovic in 1965. Their three children, Senko, Sveto and Senka were all born in Croatia.
However, like many Croatian people at the time – they were treated as second class citizens.
Mirko immigrated to Australia in early 1971. His young family followed in late 1973.
Within one week of arriving to Melbourne he became a member of the Croatia Soccer Club – forever anchoring himself to the club, its fortunes and its people.
He found work as a pipe lagger and was revered by his peers as a hardworking, honest and polite man.
On August 11th of 1979, Mirko was involved in a serious car accident. So serious was the accident that a priest was called to perform the last rites. He had massive internal bleeding, his organs had shifted and it looked like a situation from which there would be no return.
Mirko was in intensive care for 33 days. He made a miraculous recovery.
Before the accident Essendon Croatia was trailing Frankston City in the Victorian State League title race. Upon his awakening, one of the first things Mirko asked
his friends that came to visit him was how Croatia finished the season – he could not believe that the club had in fact won the State League. He was not shocked that he had recovered from near death – but that Croatia had won the State League!
His recovery was slow and arduous and due to the accident was put on a disability pension. He was never able to work again.
Mirko continued to follow his beloved Melbourne Croatia week in week out and became involved with the club on the working committee in the era when the club was developing its current home.
The then groundskeeper ended up retiring and Mirko was asked by George Hannah to take the job on temporarily. He soon became groundskeeper and gear steward – a position he executed with distinction for nearly 28 years straight, retiring in mid-2017.
Mirko was a father figure to three generations of Melbourne Croatia-Knights senior players, from national champions, Socceroo captains to VPL stars.
It is from this position that he not only tended to the club’s grounds – keeping them in immaculate condition, but also being an honest and caring voice amongst the playing group.
Other than the club’s colours and home ground, Mirko was the only constant in that period for the club – from name and logo changes right through to dropping back down to the State League. He saw it all and lived through it all but more importantly was always a truly loyal, club-first person, a staunch defender and protector of the club.
Rus was a very influential man within the club in his own discreet, unassuming and polite manner. He helped guide club committees, coaches, players and everyone in between.
Mirko Rastocic was honoured by the club in its 60th Anniversary, being one of twenty inaugural Honour Roll inductees, was featured in the club documentary and was also presented the club’s number one ticket in 2018.
A club is more than just a place or a name; it is both of those things, but more than anything else it’s the sum of its people. Today we lost one of our best people and mourn his loss together with his family.
Mirko Rastocic – Rus passed away after a prolonged battle with illness on Sunday 23rd June 2019 at 4:05pm at the Peter Maccallum Cancer Centre surrounded by his family.
The club extends its deepest condolences to his wife Ivka, sons Senko and Sveto, daughter Senka, daughter in laws Katarina and Teresa, son in law Zarko and his seven grandchildren Adrian, Damian, Jason, Matthew, Andrew, Luka and Ruza.