This Collingwood Life: Col Umlauft

The son of German immigrants was so moved by his time on the Collingwood reservations that he changed his name to commemorate it.

It must not have been easy being German immigrants during World War I. And it certainly wasn’t for Hugo and Bertha Umlauft and their young son.yes, who suffered extensive persecution. But they and their family seemed to hold no grudges.: one would serve our country in the Second World War and other it ended with a once-in-a-lifetime connection to Collingwood Football Club.

Hugo Y Bertha say ohd arrived in Australia in 1908 and 1910 respectively. His first son, William Sydney (better known as Syd), he was born in 1911 and his second, Hugo Siegfried, two years later. By this stage the family had moved to Epping, where they bought and ran a successful local bakery.

Within two weeks of the first World War to have broken outsideHugo responded by successfully applying for Australian citizenship.. But that didn’t stop some local residents from refusing to accept the family as ‘real’ Australians and subjecting them to harassment and abuse.

Yet, the family persevering and they would become respected and longstanding members of the local community. By the 1930s, both brothers had left the family bakery business and began working at the Abbotsford Brewery. But they remained very active in the local Epping sports scene, starring in football, Cricket and tennis

Hugo was particularly gifted, having played for Epping seniors in both cricket and footy 17 years In cricket, he was a skilled all-rounder who would win awards for both aspects of the game. in footy hhe was a goalscoring striker: One newspaper described him as “a spectacular central midfielder who plays a great game”. The juice in various Epping Premiership teams including two in 1935 and ’36, when he was vice-captain.

For this weather he was already called ‘Col’, a good-natured nickname given to him after playing some football with the Collingwood (Collingwood Districts) reserves team between 1932 and 1934. He is listed as having played nine games and kicked five goals, but records for the era are incomplete and you may have played more than that. Either way, it seems almost certain that his entry into the team came about through his work at the Brewery, where Jock McHale was manager and many Footballers from Collingwood, Districts and Abbotsford worked.

‘Col’ seems to have approached the VFL Magpies senior team – a newspaper report from 1934 said he would “probably have a race with Collingwood this week.” But the great the break never came, instead settling for a distinguished career locallyalthough he also tried out for Preston in 1935

Col and his brother Syd were very close, and they later bought a bakery together in Garfield, close. His parents moved from Epping to be close to them. They then moved to other bakeries in Skipton, then Ballarat before finally moving to New South Wales.

But in the mid-1960s he decided to formalize that little piece of Collingwood he had been given in the 1930s: he changed his name by public deed to Hugo Siegfried Colin Umlauft, preferring to be known as ‘Col’ or ‘Collie’. ‘.

He may have only played nine reserve games for us during the Depression, but Colonel Umlauft’s story proves one thing many of us instinctively know: once you’re Collingwood, you’re Collingwood for life.

Much of the information in this story comes from a story by Robert Wuchatsch in a 2013 Friends of Westgarthtown newsletter. Visit westgarthtown.org.au

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