Albury-Wodonga sporting icon Les O'Brien dies suddenly, aged 80

THE Border sporting community has been rocked by the sudden death of Les O’Brien.

MAGIC MOMENT: Les O'Brien took part in the Queen's baton relay in lead-up to 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

MAGIC MOMENT: Les O'Brien took part in the Queen's baton relay in lead-up to 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Mr O’Brien, who was recognised by Rotary with a Paul Harris Fellowship for 60 years service to the community 12 months ago, suffered a heart attack late on Friday.

He was 80.

Born in Wodonga, Mr O’Brien grew up in Benalla before moving back to the border and operating Big Chiefs Trading Post in central Albury for more than two decades.

His wife of more than 50 years, Lyn, died last year from dementia.

Mr O’Brien’s association with the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League dates back to 1958.

He is a former president of North Albury and has been a long-time property steward and team manager for the O and M representative teams.

His memorabilia collection is legendary and is annually displayed at the league’s Hall of Fame evening.

He was also involved with Lavington Panthers in the mid-2000s and has been the ground announcer during finals series dating back decades.

Traditional tributes including a minute’s silence and black arm bands worn by players were paid to Mr O’Brien before matches on Saturday.

“The league is saddened by the loss of an unbelievable ambassador and stalwart of Ovens and Murray football and netball,” chairman Graeme Patterson said.

“He will be truly missed.

“Les has basically devoted all his life serving local sport.”

He has also been involved with St Patrick’s Junior Football Club and Albury-Wodonga Football Association powerhouse Albury United.

Former United coach Scott Kidd said O’Brien had made a huge impact in his 15-year association.

“He was a big part of our family and big part of culture and what we we’ve been about,” he said.

“His legacy will definitely live on at the club.

“Legend is a term thrown around way too easily, but it applies to Les.”

Mr O’Brien was a noted athlete in his own right and won races at Stawell.

He also trained a long list of young athletes in Albury.

Outside of sport, has been a long-time welfare officer for the Albury-Wodonga National Servicemen’s Association and the Relay for Life committee.

He is survived by his three daughters, Kerrie, Cheryl and Debbie and families.