The Feeny Years
J.J. Feeny, (left) captain of the Coonooer Bridge premiership team in 1920. Legend has it that whenever he took a mark - and marking was one of the great strengths of his game - he threw his cap on the ground to remind opponents that that was the spot beyond which they must not encroach!
One of the most amazing records in the history of Australian football is that of the late Mr J.J. Feeny, whose name is perpetuated by the North-Central League's highest award, the Feeny Medal.
Beginning his career in 1897, at the age of 17, he played until he was in his mid-forties.
His first clubs were Gooroc, Sutherland and Swanwater. Then followed six years with Donald, which won a premiership in 1906.
"J.J." transferred his attention back to Swanwater in 1907 and 1908, the team winning the premiership in both those years. The urge to return to Donald saw him with the Blues as captain in 1909 and 1910.
Conflicting reports fail to clarify whether he played for Traynors Lagoon or Watchem in 1911, but he was lured to Cope Cope in 1912, a premiership year for that club.
In fact, the winning of premierships was to become a way of life for him.
He was captain of Coonooer Bridge's 1913 pennant side before transferring to St Arnaud at the outbreak of World War I.
The resumption of football after the war found "J.J." leading the 1919 Cope Cope team in a triangular competition with Donald and St Arnaud.
In 1920 he was captain of another Coonooer Bridge premiership team before returning to Cope Cope for a year and then transferring to St Arnaud.
A year he would never forget was 1923. "By arrangement" in those days, a player could obtain a two-way permit. In the case of J.J. Feeny it enabled him to lead the both the St Arnaud team in the Wednesady competition and Coonooer Bridge in the Saturday Association. The result was that he captained two senior premeirship teams in the one season!
The rest of his distinguished career was with his "home town" of Cope Cope. He stepped down from the leadership after the 1925 season, but continued to play for some years after the competition became known as the North-Central League in 1926.
For most people that would have been enough. For J.J. Feeny, however, it was just the end of one football phase and the beginning of another. For 33 years after his retirement as a player he was a valued member of the North-Central independent tribunal, a position he relinquished in 1959. He died on February 23, 1963.
Outstanding footballer, administrator, life member of the North-Central League, and champion country tennis player, J.J. Feeny will long be remembered for his tremendous contribution to sport both on and off the playing surface.
No more appropriate name could have been bestowed upon North-Central's "best and fairest" medal.