John Cunningham was recruited from Geelong by Norwood in 1996. In 1995 he had played against Peter Rohde (Melbourne) in the VFL Reserves and had greatly impressed the prospective Norwood coach. Drafted in mid-1993, Cunningham had played two AFL games in two and a half seasons at Geelong and was delisted at the end of the 1995 season.
The son of former Hawthorn premiership player, John "Jack" Cunningham, he was a skilled, hard-running rover who had also played for Port Melbourne and the Northern Knights in the Victorian State Football League Under 18's.
Cunningham, known as "JC" made an immediate impact on the SANFL and was named Norwood's Club Champion in his first season. A natural rover, who was dangerous around goals, Cunningham was noted for his professional approach to football.
1997 started disastrously for Cunningham. He damaged his left knee in a pre-season trial against North Adelaide and was operated on in April. Although not expected to return that season, he made a remarkable recovery to resume in the Reserves in the last minor round game. He was immediately promoted to the League team for the finals when he had 29 disposals in the Grand Final, kicked two goals, and was awarded the Jack Oatey Medal as the best player in the 1997 Grand Final.
In 1998 he was elected Player's Representative and made his interstate debut for South Australia against Western Australia, at Football Park.
The following season, he was in the Norwood team that went agonisingly close to winning the Grand Final, against Port Adelaide.
After two knee reconstructions and ongoing hamstring problems, the courageous and competitive Cunningham played his 100th game, against Sturt in the 2002 Preliminary Final.
After retiring from League football, "JC" had a stint coaching Pembroke Old Scholars in the South Australian Amateur Football League.
R Cialini Jan 2015