A dashing centreman with Penola, Murray Mooney briefly played alongside his future brother-in-law ‘Sam’ Gallagher at Norwood after both served in the RAAF in World War II. Murray was troubled by injury and returned to Penola, where he celebrated four premierships as a playing coach.
Born at Mount Gambier on 14 September 1925 to Walter Mooney and his wife Patricia, née Moran, Murray had three brothers, Roland, Colin and Basil. Murray served as a leading aircraftman from 1 January 1944 to 23 August 1945.
He emerged as a classy player for Penola in 1946 and earned selection as the Mount Gambier and District Football Association’s centreman in a match against North Broken Hill. Off the field, not quite 21, he was elected president of the Penola sub-branch of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women. In 1947 he was Penola vice-captain and played in representative teams against the SA Football Association and West Torrens.
Sought also by North Adelaide and Sturt, he moved to Adelaide in 1948 to play with Norwood but, with Gallagher entrenched at centre, found it hard to break into the league team as it headed towards its second post-war premiership. Murray had limited opportunities at centre wing and in 1949 was out of action for several weeks when he suffered a broken blood vessel in an association match. He played three league games in 1948 and two in 1949. He kicked two goals in his 21 association games.
Murray returned to Penola in 1950. Well into the season he agreed to take over as Penola captain-coach, with immediate success. Before a record crowd of 3,300 at Vansittart Park, Mount Gambier, a late goal gave the blue and whites a 7.13 to 7.8 victory over Winmoor and their first premiership for 20 years.
Murray continued as a canny coach and leading player as Penola won premierships in the South-East and Border Football League in 1952, 1953 and 1954.
Murray married Mary (Mollie) Gallagher in 1951 and they had five children, Sharon, Kevin, Rory, Andrew and Cate. Murray was 70 when died at Penola on 10 May 1996, a year after Mollie. Both are buried at the Penola Cemetery.
P Robins, D Cox, G Adams May 2021