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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moriarty, Daniel (1895–1982)

by J. H. Pash

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Daniel Moriarty (1895-1982), sportsman, was born on 21 August 1895 in Adelaide, tenth of fourteen children of Irish migrants Daniel Moriarty, carter, and his wife Jane, née Condon. His father worked for the Adelaide City Council and the family lived near the Victoria Park racecourse. The boys attended Christian Brothers' College, Wakefield Street, a well-known nursery of sportsmen. Following the death of his mother when he was 13, Dan at 14 joined the accounts branch of the Postmaster-General's Department, where he spent most of his working life.

Moriarty was almost 24 when he played his first South Australian National Football League match for South Adelaide in 1919; he soon established a brilliant record. At 5ft 10in (178cm) he had a fine physique, was broad shouldered and well muscled through a lifelong habit of systematic exercise and vigorous sport; he did not smoke. Quick and agile, Moriarty showed superb judgement of pace. He proved to be an exceptional footballer. However, other factors in his short career contributed to the legend which grew up. He came to the league fully formed and at the top of his powers and won the Magarey medal, as the fairest and most brilliant player, in his first three seasons (1919-21)—a feat which has never been repeated. He played for South Australia at centre-half-back in his first year, and was an automatic selection thereafter.

On 5 November 1924 in St Francis Xavier's Cathedral he married Clarice Mary Corona Teresa Thornton, a photographer's assistant; they had a daughter and a son. When Moriarty retired in 1926, still at the top of his powers, he made a clean break with the game, though suited by character, prestige and discipline to be a football administrator or coach. Just as he left no memories of a young footballer gradually acquiring skill, so there were none of an ageing champion's decline.

As a boy Moriarty had fallen under the spell of the thoroughbred horses exercising and training at Victoria Park, and racing had remained in his thoughts. He now embraced what was to be in turn a pastime, a passion and almost a profession. He was special racing writer for the Catholic weekly Southern Cross, and then regular track reporter for the Adelaide News. In 1935 he resigned from the public service to freelance, specializing in racing journalism. He became an owner and had many successes with shrewdly chosen horses such as Torlea, Trellios, Welloch, First Scout, Serene Princess and St Pierre. After giving up journalism in 1955 he devoted his long retirement to his family, business, farming, golf and racing.

Moriarty was popular on South Australian race-tracks; the aura of success from his football youth stayed with him, while his expertise was widely acknowledged and admired. But other qualities won him the affection of his fellow-sportsmen—a delight in the game itself, a most genial temperament and a moral earnestness that seemed to make him an elder statesman in any group.

Moriarty died in Calvary Hospital on 12 November 1982 and, after requiem Mass at St Ignatius Church, Norwood, was buried in Centennial Park cemetery. He was survived by his wife and children and the South Adelaide Football Club struck a perpetual trophy to commemorate him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. K. Knuckey, South Australian Football, the Past and Present (Adel, 1965)
  • B. Whimpress, The South Australian Football Story (Adel, 1983)
  • South Australian Football Budget, 9 May 1981
  • News (Adelaide), 7 Sept 1976
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 13 Nov 1982.

Citation details

J. H. Pash, 'Moriarty, Daniel (1895–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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