b. 2-Jul-1907 | d. 13-Mar-1997
In 1924 Leo O’Brien a young and exciting left hand batsman from the Melbourne bayside suburb of Mentone, arrived at Punt Road hoping that the opportunity of establishing himself in a strong District Club was available .
The leaders at Richmond soon realised that the exceptional talent he possessed for such a young man, would give him every chance of realising his dream. He was just seventeen when he scored 101 against Collingwood in the Second X1 and was immediately promoted to make his senior debut on the 7th of March 1925. The Club’s Annual Report for 1924-25 stated that “Richmond have unearthed the Brilliant Colt of the season”. Leo was tough, hard working and enthusiastic and was able to cope with the pressures of batting in the side’s top three.
Leo spent 15 happy years with the Tigers and was recognised as being the ultimate team man, so his team mates and officials were thrilled to see him progress to State and International Honours over the journey. A versatile sportsman, he was a leading player in the Richmond Cricketer’s Baseball Club and he fought for the Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship of Victoria. In his 135 Senior games for the Tigers he scored 3,808 runs with 6 Centuries. He won the Club’s Batting Award in 1931-32 and in February of the next season he, along with Len Junor, compiled a Record Second Wicket partnership of 282 against University, which still stands to-day. The 195 he compiled in that partnership is the fifth highest score by a Richmond player. Other strong partnerships followed, with 195 for the Second Wicket with George Newstead in 1936-37, and 160 for the First Wicket with Junor again in 1939-40.
The classic 100 he scored for the Colts X1 against Carlton in November 1929 while he was on loan from Richmond, saw him called up to play for the State. Leo went on to play 40 games for Victoria from 1929-30 to 1937-38, scoring 2,267 runs with 5 centuries. In 1931 a small but courageous 46 he scored for an Australian X1 against the might of England’s “Bodyline” bowlers, was generally thought to be the reason he was elevated into the Australian Test Team. Leo O’Brien was placed at number three in the Australian batting order, some say to protect Don Bradman who was the main target of Harold Larwood’s lethal and express bowling. Leo was Richmond’s fifth Test Cap, he played 5 Tests for Australia scoring 211 runs with a top score of 61, in 1935-36 he toured South Africa with the Australian Test Team.
When he retired from his Senior playing days, he became a very successful coach in Australia and Asia, but at the same time he still made an effort to play social cricket until he reached a staggering 70 years of age. Two years after his death in 1997 he was selected in Richmond’s Team of the Century, and to this day remains greatly admired for his courage and dedicated service to Richmond, Victorian and Australian sport.