How New Norcia farmer Jeremiah James Clune shaped the Great Northern Football League

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Joint winners of the 2019 JJ Clune Award Jaimon Alone (Rovers) and Kingsley Smith (Northampton).
Camera IconJoint winners of the 2019 JJ Clune Award Jaimon Alone (Rovers) and Kingsley Smith (Northampton). Credit: Supplied

I am a big history buff.

Every aspect of local life in Geraldton has an interesting history, including sport.

Being involved in football, I have an interest in how Australia’s unique game came to the region.

The following summation is a combination of fact and conjecture.

As a game devised around the border district of NSW and Victoria by the Wills brothers, I believe Aussie Rules must have got to WA via the Goldfields during the rush in the 1890s.

During that time, plenty of Victorians travelled here to stake their fortune, and perhaps our State rivalry started there, too.

Football was first played around here on the Greenough Flats.

There are records of a game being played, with one of the teams being Ramblers.

History suggests they later became known as the Rover Football Club, officially established in 1904.

Today, Rovers are the oldest club in the Great Northern Football League.

Towns Football Club was not set up until the 1950s, but the Bulldogs have a significant influence on our competition.

Towns was the club of the revered first president of the Great Northern National Football League (later the GNFL), a farmer, who moved from New Norcia after World War II to the historic property of Newmarracarra.

Jeremiah James Clune apparently bought the property for a song because of a rabbit plague ravaging the area. Clune was also president of the Geraldton Football Association and in 1961 was instrumental in forming the GNNFL (Great Northern National Football League, later GNFL).

This was the result of him and others convincing other leagues in the district to combine with the Geraldton Football Association.

He became the inaugural president, and the fairest and best award for the competition was struck in his honour. Today, JJ Clune’s legacy is intact.

Recently, his medal was presented to Kingsley Smith, of Northampton, and Rovers’ Jaimon Alone as joint winners. Tradition continued with his granddaughter, Leanne Voss, presenting the trophy at a gala event.

The GNFL, like many leagues in Australia, has many challenges as it moves into the future, but the forward thinking of JJ Clune and others has seen it endure.

The league continues to produce its share of champions and bring great pleasure and recognition to this area, thanks to a farmer from New Norcia.

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