An American Aussie Rules player who died when a car struck his mountain bike on a rural road in Darwin has been remembered as a beloved teammate who lit up the room with his smile.
- Alex Aurrichio played football in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and the NT
- He grew up in Suffolk, Long Island and fell in love with AFL in his early 20s
- In 2016 he said “the generosity of the Australian people” made his journey possible
Alex Aurrichio, 30, moved to the Top End after a nomadic life playing football in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland and had been playing for the Waratah Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League.
Mr Aurrichio’s teammates wore their distinctive red and white uniforms to his funeral at Darwin’s Star of the Sea Cathedral.
The service was also live streamed to his family in the United States and the friends he had made around Australia.
Speaking via video link, his father Lou Aurrichio paid tribute to his son as a leader of men, a teacher of children and a true motivator, and thanked his adopted country.
“To the football teams he played on that gave him an opportunity to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional athlete, and thank you to the people of Australia who surrounded him with warmth and generosity in coming to your country, a place he loved so much,” he said.
Late bloomer pursued an AFL career around Australia
Known as “Rooch”, Alex Aurrichio grew up playing basketball in Suffolk, Long Island and represented Columbia University in soccer and baseball, but fell in love with AFL in his early 20s.
After winning the first Aussie Rules tournament he played in, he moved to Australia in November 2014 to try his hand at an AFL career.
The burly ruckman, who stood almost 2 metres tall, lived with the storied AFL family the Danihers for a year in Melbourne while he played with Carlton-affiliated club the Northern Blues.
He then played for South Adelaide in the SANFL and the Southport Sharks on the Gold Coast before moving to Darwin.
Mr Aurrichio told an interviewer in 2016 that he loved the physical side of Aussie Rules, and his adopted home.
“The glue that has made this whole journey possible has been the generosity of the Australian people, finding housing, host families,” he said.
“People are always willing to lend a hand, whether it be a job, or a car, getting a ride.
“I don’t know if I’d find that as consistently back home as I did here.”
Finding a home in the Top End
In a eulogy, Mr Aurrichio’s “Australian brother” Tom Fields said he felt he had won the lottery when they met in Melbourne five years ago.
“Alex had the gift to enter into someone’s life for a brief moment and instantly make them feel happier, safe and better about themselves,” Mr Fields said.
“To me that is the mark of an exceptional human being.
He recalled his friend’s love of Darwin, and a phone conversation they had after the American had moved to the Top End.
“You’ve got to get up here man, this place is off the hook! I’m just so damn happy bro, I love it over here,” Mr Fields recounted.
NBA star Tobias Harris played high school basketball with Mr Aurrichio and tweeted about his disbelief on hearing of his death.
“Alex was seriously one of the greatest human beings I’ve come across. I’ve lost a friend that I will forever miss,” read the tweet.
Alexander Aurrichio is survived by his mother Jill, father Lou and siblings John, Michael, Jillian and Christopher.
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