2023 Queensland Football Hall of Fame – Darren O’Brien

Darren O’Brien was a Mildura boy who travelled far and wide living the football dream and headed to Queensland in 2003 for one year. Twenty years on he is not only still here but is one of Queensland football’s greats.

A graduate of the Bendigo Pioneers in the NAB League, he had “a couple of calls” from AFL clubs in his draft year but when the AFL dream faded he moved on to the Glenelg Under 19s, the Glenelg seniors, Palmerston in Darwin and finally Southport.

He was lured to the Gold Coast in 2003 by Southport coach Scott Lawton, with whom he’d played previously at South Mildura. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

A tireless ball-winning rover and natural leader, he played 145 games for Southport from 2003-11, won the club best and fairest in 2003-05 and was runner-up in 2007-08. He skippered the Sharks from 2004-08, leading the club to the flag in 2005 and 2008 and was denied a hat-trick when he missed the 2006 grand final through injury.

Welcomed with open arms by the State selectors, he was a regular State representative every year from 2003, except for 2006, and played “eight or nine” times for his adopted State.

In a career highlight, he was a member of the 2007 Maroons side coached by Jason Cotter that pulled off a stunning upset win by 11 points in Launceston. Despite a hefty loss, he’s never forgotten a State game against a star-studded Western Australian side at Carrara in 2005, when Warwick Capper flew in on a helicopter to present the match balls pre-game.

It was all part of a wonderful journey in which he was awarded the prestigious Wally Fankhauser Award in 2009 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the club. Also a Southport Hall of Famer, he was named in 2008 in the Southport Team of 1983-2008, celebrating the club’s first 25 years in the State League. He later worked in the building industry on the tourist strip.

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