A solid six-footer who marked strongly, Mick O’Brien began his senior football with Norwood in 1893 and went on to become an inaugural member of the West Torrens club in 1897.
Mick was on a half-back flank at Adelaide Oval on 5 August 1893 when Norwood put paid to Port Adelaide’s premiership prospects. It was a torrid match. As the Magentas made their push for victory, Port supporters were incensed by several controversial decisions of the umpire, Norwood icon Jack Woods. There were cries of “Cheat” and “Put on your Norwoods’ togs”. Norwood defended grimly and hung on to win 8.5 to 6.4. Umpire Woods was mobbed by the crowd and, according to differing reports, fell or was knocked to the ground, was kicked deliberately or accidently, and retaliated or initiated fisticuffs with a detractor.
In 1894, Mick was playing for the Port Natives, which became the Natives in the following two seasons and then West Torrens. Regarded as a good follower and a gentleman, Mick played for Torrens in its first match, against Port at Alberton on 1 May 1897. It was not a happy day for the visitors, who had only 16 men and were smashed 15.14 to nil.
Mick played through to 1901. Quiz in June 1900 said: “Mick O’Brien is clumsy, but effective, and is rapidly developing into a first-class half-back. It is physique enables him to withstand many a hard bump and still come up smiling.” A year later, Mick kicked a goal at the new Norwood Oval, where the home team won 7.9 to 4.8 in the absence of the honeymooning Torrens captain, Tom McKenzie. Quiz commented: “For the losers that stolid old goer, Mick O’Brien, was continually in the ascendant, and his sure marking was the wonder of the crowd.”
Mick also played cricket with success as a left-arm bowler. Invalided for some years after he was crushed between two railways trucks, he managed the billiards hall at the Land of Promise Hotel, Hindmarsh, in the 1920s
P Robins July 2019