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Bendigo FNLRichard Jones |  One of the Bendigo footy league’s all-time greats, Peter Moroni, has passed away.

Laid low by the insidious motor neurone disease Moroni was 72 when he died. He played 368 senior games for the Golden Square Football Club, was inducted into the BFNL’s first Hall of Fame back in 1986 and was an automatic inclusion in Square’s inaugural Hall of Fame in May this year.

In 26 seasons playing at the Wade Street oval with the Square Moroni missed out on finals in just one season. He ran out onto the QEO for no less than 11 grand finals and was a key member of the 1972-75-76-79 flag-winning combinations. He captained the 1972 premiership side.

Known as ‘Cabbage’ because of his family’s extensive market gardening operations in the outer Bendigo suburb of Epsom Moroni was one of the BFNL’s quickest and most exciting wingers. So good was Peter that the outer wing at the Square’s home ground is known as the “Peter Moroni wing”. The sign is attached to the oval’s scoreboard. Peter was known as a gut-busting runner --- before it actually came into vogue --- and was not only pacy but also agile. He missed only four games through injury on the way to 300 senior games across three decades –- an amazing statistic few other players could ever hope to match.

Peter started off with the Square under-18s and played for three seasons (1963-65) before being called up to the Bulldog seniors in 1966. Because of his pace and agility the speedy wingman soon came under the notice and scrutiny of VFL clubs. Hawthorn circled and in 1967 Peter played one practice match at Glenferrie Oval.

Legendary Melbourne coach Norm Smith also had Moroni in their sights but the Square sensation turned down the approaches from the Demons and instead settled on Geelong. He made the Cats’ senior list and played in pre-season practice matches in 1967 and 1968. But yearning for his cherished Bendigo lifestyle “the fleet-footed market gardener” (a term coined by legendary 3BO match-caller Dick Turner) returned to central Victoria and the Golden Square club. And there he remained despite lucrative offers to play, and coach, which came his way from many parts of regional Victoria.

One honour which never came his way, strangely enough, was the winning of a Michelsen Medal --- the BFNL’s highest individual award. He was runner-up in 1970 to Kevin Shinners of Rochester and then had third, fourth and fifth finishes at various stages during his otherwise highly decorated career. Not surprisingly, Peter won two Golden Square best and fairests and was runner-up on no fewer then five occasions.

The agile winger played an outstanding 17 games for Bendigo at inter-league level and was vice-captain of the pre-eminent 1972 Bendigo Blue and Gold Victorian country championship-winning side. So adding the 1972 senior club premiership with the Square to his resume that season was one of Peter Moroni’s overall all-time highlights. The Golden Square club will honour their champion at Wade Street oval matches which round out season 2019.

Vale: the great Peter Moroni.