Military Veterans of Williamstown CYMS

By Bruce O’Brien

Anzac Day means a great deal to our community and none more so that at our footy club. We are proud to be playing on this most sacred day. We are lucky to have Bruce O’Brien (Life Member of the CYs and Vietnam Veteran)  prepare a short piece of some CY’s legends who bravely represented our country in war. 

Firstly, a word on Bruce himself. 

Bruce O’Brien, one of Keith O’Brien’s two sons to have represented the CYs, was conscripted in 1966, entered military service in 1967, and returned home from South Vietnam in 1969.

Bruce played for the CY’s U18s in the Werribee District League, U19s in the Footscray District League and was a regular seconds player in the CYMS Football Association.

Like his father, Bruce was assigned to the Corps of Signals, generally in combat situations, and assigned as liaison to other friendly forces, such as the US and Thai Militaries, or South Vietnam forces. Regular patrols outside the wire were an accepted undertaking.

The Liaison officer/operator had to be capable of operating alone, proficient at sending and receiving Morse Code, of using Cypher – converting plain language into 5 x 5 figures and letters to code up secure messages. Precise map reading, impeccable procedures and capable of operating multiple radio and phone systems at any one time. Most LO Radio Operators worked 16 hour shifts and were ready at all times to move to other operating locations.

Bruce has held many positions within the CYs, having served as Secretary, Treasurer, and is now a Life Member and valued member of Dads’ Army. He was an instigator of the move from the WSFL into the VAFA.

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October 1968, had just come into camp (Nui Dat) after spending 6 weeks out on operations.

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Bruce final exercise in Australia, Shoalwater Bay; the next week he was in South Vietnam (June 1968)

Leo Daley joined the club in the mid 1920’s, his goal kicking skills evident during the 1928 premiership year, kicking 63 goals including 5 in the grand final.

Leo was quick, had exceptional foot skills and was an outstanding mark – a full-back’s nightmare.

The following season Leo was recruited by VFL club Essendon.

Eleven years later as the second World War drums were beating, Leo headed to England, joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) and fought in the Battle of Britain as a Spitfire pilot.

In 1969, Leo was a member of a combined Footscray City–Williamstown Bowling Club ‘Fours Team’, winning the RSL National Fours Championship.

Keith O’Brien arrived in Williamstown as a son of the newly appointed police sergeant Gus O’Brien, stationed in Home Road Newport and living in Verdon Street.

He played lacrosse for many years, captaining Victoria, latterly being coaxed to play Australian rules football by his superiors at the State Savings Bank of Victoria. Keith played with the Bank in the A Grade Amateurs, having an arrangement that on Tuesdays he would train with the CYs, being a bank officer stationed in Williamstown. On Thursdays after work, he would catch the train from North Williamstown to Brighton Beach where the Bank trained and played their home games at the Brighton Beach Oval.

Due to a lack of players because of the War, the VAFA suspended play soon after the start of the 1940 season. Keith finished the season with the Willi CYs, playing as a ruck rover in the Grand Final team, unfortunately losing to East Melbourne by 9 points.

Shortly after, Keith enlisted as a soldier and was assigned to the Corps of Signals, trained as a radio operator, morse code, line laying et al and saw action against the Japanese in New Guinea. Two of his sons also played for the CYs.

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