Brian Sawley's father and two uncles had already played football for the Norwood Football Club before he made his league debut in 1954. His father Frank played 26 games in the early 30's, Gordon 53 games (1937-41) and Albert "Pongo" Sawley, 110 games (1935-46). Both his uncles had also played in the Victorian Football League.
Brian first came into prominence as a state representative in the 1951 Australian Schoolboys Carnival, held in Melbourne. Then in 1953 he went to Mount Gambier with the State Junior Colts.
In 1954, as a 17 year old, Sawley had a sudden rise through Norwood's ranks. Starting the season with the senior colts where he played centre half forward, he played Reserves and then League in successive weeks. The strongly built Sawley played 11 games in his debut season, predominantly in the forward lines.
An excellent kick with both feet, Sawley played forward and back the following season, ending up in the back pocket for the 1955 Grand Final. He won Norwood's Best Junior award in 1956 and was selected on a half forward flank in the State Second 18 team that played against Essendon and Geelong during the year.
Playing as a defender for most of 1957, Sawley started the season in the back pocket, played interstate football against Victoria, the VFA and Tasmania, played centre half back in Norwood's losing Grand Final side and was named the club's best all-round player at the end of the season. He represented the State again in 1958 at the carnival in Melbourne and played on a half forward flank in Norwood's Advertiser Cup win.
After coaching the Tantanoola Football Club in 1959, he continued his career at The Parade and in 1961 played in another Grand Final. He had been high in Norwood's best players in its Preliminary Final win over Port Adelaide.
During his League career Sawley represented South Australia 11 times, with two matches in 1963 being best remembered. He was a member of the iconic team that beat Victoria on the MCG, playing an outstanding game at half forward. When the teams met again in Adelaide, Sawley was knocked out in an ugly incident involving Victoria's John Peck.
R Cialini June 2014