Tigers to farewell great League mentor 'Obie'
By Chris Karas TWT
Holy Cross & Balmain rugby league fraternity are mourning the death of highly-respected mentor John O'Brien (pictured) of East Ryde who passed away in Royal North Shore Hospital on May 2 after a long illness.
O'Brien, a former Balmain and North Sydney hooker, enjoyed a 60 year association with Holy Cross rugby league teams.
John, who was made a life member of Balmain District Football Club in 2007, played over 200 grade games with the Tigers and Bears as a skilful hooker forward during a distinguished career in the 1950s and '60s.
Affectionately known as 'Obie', John later carved out a successful coaching career with Balmain junior representative teams and at Holy Cross College where he proved a valuable mentor to the likes of Benny Elias, Denis Bendall, Greg Cox and also Wayne Pearce, Garry Webster, John Owens, Paul Clarke and in recent years Wests Tigers trio Curtis Sironen, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.
Elias, the Tigers' legendary hooker, and former Kangaroo Paul Sironen heaped praise on O'Brien when nominating the stalwart for life membership.
'Obey' started his football career in the Balmain Junior League as a 14 year old hooker with Rozelle Old Boys U/16s in 1946 before stints with the Olympics and Leichhardt Wanderers clubs.
John also left his mark in the Sunday CYO competition with Rozelle before graduating to the Tigers' grade ranks in 1951 as an 18 year old rake.
He played eight seasons with the Tigers and was a member of the Balmain first grade Grand Final squad in 1956 that was beaten 18-12 by the mighty St George Dragons.
O'Brien played in the Tigers' premiership-winning third grade teams in 1954-55 and '56 and the champion reserve grade-winning sides in 1957 and '58.
John made eight top grade appearances for the Tigers in 1958 before switching to the North Sydney club the following season and collecting another reserve grade premiership blazer.
The tough hooker played seven seasons with the Bears before pouring his energies into coaching. He first coached Holy Cross teams in 1955 and has been involved at schoolboy level for most of his life - also coaching at John Paul II Marayong during the 1980s.
At Junior League level he's coached Balmain United, North Ryde, Ryde District and Holy Cross teams. John has also coached winning teams from 10 years to 18 years in inter-school and NSW Schoolboy Championships and has done likewise in the Balmain Junior League.
O'Brien also coached Balmain's 1973 Jersey Flegg premiership team and picked up runners-up medals in 1972 and '74. <News courtesy of TWT 6th May 2015>
Ceremony for Super Coach Obie: 15th May 2015
A TRIBUTE ceremony to legendary Holy Cross rugby league mentor John O’Brien will be staged this Friday in the Holy Cross College Ryde Centenary Hall at 4pm.