Silvagni won best-and-fairests in 1962, a grand final year, and 1968, a premiership year. That’s the mark of a footballer. As Nicholls once said of him: “You don’t demand respect. You command it. He did.” Silvagni was captain for one season in 1964, handing over without demur the next year to arriving messiah Barassi. That’s the mark of a clubman.
Indeed, no name is more synonymous with Carlton than Silvagni. He served the club as reserves coach, and for three games stand-in senior coach, and on the committee.
He and son Steve are both official club legends, both in the team of the century (also the Italian team of the century) and now Steve’s son Jack is carrying that big name forward. It is a long time since anyone at Carlton did not know how to pronounce Silvagni.
In 1969, Silvagni retired to become the club’s runner, but 15 rounds into the next season, Barassi talked him back into action. A little more than two months later, he played his reliable part in the most epic premiership of all.
Ruckman Percy Jones remembers Silvagni in the last quarter. “I looked over and all the young Collingwood blokes were cramping,” he said. “Nick [Nicholls] and Serge were running and chasing and tackling, all the way along the boundary line, still going.” Silvagni was 32, Nicholls 31. “He was a goer, Serge, a true goer,” said Jones.
A year later, Silvagni retired for good after 239 games and 136 goals. But he never left Carlton, nor the hearts of the supporters.
He was never one for tub-thumping and so played a lesser public role than others from his Carlton era. But he was a fixture at the club, and in time he played – conspiring with his wife Rita – the unique role of patriarch, adding nearly 400 more games and another pair of premierships and best-and-fairests to the family CV. At Carlton, No. 1 is No. 1.
Steve preceded his father into formal Blues’ legend-hood by nearly two decades. When Serge at last caught up in 2016, he protested mildly. “I was never that good,” he said. “I was a battler.” There are countless Carlton fans to protest that, in at least two languages.