Willey, who was a student at Scotch College, made his debut for Essendon in 1955, while on a permit from Redan. That year he won the Best and Fairest award in the Ballarat Football League. He joined the club full-time in 1956 and kicked 33 goals from 16 games, to top Essendon's goal-kicking.
His work as a metallurgist brought him to Broken Hill in 1957 and he played with the North Broken Hill Football Club until 1960. He coached South Broken Hill to a premiership in 1962.