The People’s Champion – Sonny Morey


Sonny Morey is one of those people in footy, if you’re lucky enough to meet, who makes a lasting impression.

It is done in such a calm, composed and controlled manner, fitting of a statesman.

This is a time of celebration of Sonny’s magnificent contribution to football in South Australia at both State League and community level.

Morey, the first “SANFL football Honouree” in the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls rounds, is a boy from the Ponderosa who wore the No.5 jumper with distinction across 14 seasons and 213 league games with Central District.

He started as a half-forward and wingman before reinventing himself in the second half of his career as a silky-smooth defender; an attacking back pocket who took the game on and rebounded strongly.

With full back Bill Cochrane, the pair built a wonderful bond and played state football together.

Sonny Morey called X Convenience Oval – Elizabeth Oval back in his day – “Sacred Ground”, as the oval and the club played such a big part in his development, not just as a player, but as a person.

A proud Arrernte man, Morey represented South Australia on four occasions, including the first state game against Western Australia at Football Park, which is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this month.

Sonny and his wife Carmel have been married for upwards of 50 years, having two daughters, Kim and Nicole, four grandchildren, Christopher, Michael, Tarnee and Kyan, along with a great grandchild, Marley.

Sonny Morey with AFL CEO Andrew Dillon at Monday’s press conference to announce him as an honouree of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds. Picture – Peter Argent

With an understated elegance and a quiet demeanour, his ability to provoke thought and discussion has been a trademark of Sonny’s as a player, coach and champion of all the people he’s engaged with through his extensive football life.

Sonny has lived with the scars of draconian decisions by Australian welfare agencies, and found a way to prosper against the odds.

A child of the stolen generation, he was moved to St Francis House in Port Adelaide, before moving to live with a foster family at Gawler.

He excelled at football, winning the colts and A-grade best-and-fairest at Gawler Central in the same year.

Sonny has a history of “firsts” with the Bulldogs, after being a part of the club’s inaugural match against West Torrens, when he gathered the first kick in league football by a Central District player.

He was the first Indigenous player to finish in the top three of a Magarey Medal count, being runner-up to Woodville’s Malcolm Blight in 1972.

He was club best-and-fairest in 1970, the first Central District First Nations player to win the award, followed by Gilbert McAdam in 1989 (the year he won the Magarey Medal) and Eddie Sansbury in 2011.

Sonny was a smart and effective coach, firstly taking the now amalgamated Eudunda Roosters to a Barossa and Light premiership in 1978, before returning to the Ponderosa and coaching at underage level between 1980 and 1988, which included mentoring the Central District Under 17s premiership team of 1985.

Sonny Morey speaks at Monday’s press conference to announce him as an honouree of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds. Picture – Peter Argent

The No.5 guernsey holds special meaning to Sonny.

It was handed to Phil Graham, who also had a substantial 196-league game career with the Bulldogs from 1978 to 1989, while a third indigenous talent, Tasmania’s Jack Callinan, is currently wearing the jumper at league level.

Morey has a biography written about his life, written by former team mate, Irishman and pioneer in his own right, Robin Mullholland and Central District club historian Rob Laidlaw and edited by SA Football Budget editor Peter Cornwall. It is a 296-page A4 hard cover publication called “Sonny: Sonny Morey’s Inspirational Stolen Generations Story”

Last year, he was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame during the Magarey Medal gala ceremony at Adelaide Oval.

Over the next two weeks, we celebrate Sonny’s achievements as a person and recognise those moments etched his history produced by First Nations people across the Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds.

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