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2017 Hall of Fame: Why John Halbert is SA football royalty

Hall of Fame: John Halbert Sturt star is SA football royalty

JOHN Halbert is South Australian football royalty.

A champion centreman-turned-centre half-forward during the 1950s and 1960s, Halbert went close to achieving the ultimate success as a coach and filled almost every position as an administrator in a remarkable 53-year span.

"Just the love of the game is what has kept me involved for so long," Halbert said.

"I brought certain skills and knowledge of football and certain academic qualifications that I could be used in football in various ways.

"I love footy so it was never a chore for me, I just adored it."

Halbert grew up in the south-eastern Adelaide suburb of Hyde Park, attended Unley High School and supported Sturt.

He played 242 games for the Double Blues, won the Magarey Medal in 1961, was runner-up three times, captained Sturt to a premiership in 1966, was a four-time best and fairest and made 17 appearances for South Australia.

To say he had a solid rookie season for Sturt, as a 17-year-old, would be a massive understatement.

Halbert played so well he finished runner-up in the Magarey Medal in 1955, one vote behind West Torrens star Lindsay Head.

Halbert finished second for SA's highest individual honour two more times, in 1958 and 1960.

But, the following year, he wasn't to be denied, eagerly listening to the radio broadcast at his family home and adding up the votes as they were read out.

After that season, Perth Football Club came knocking with an offer to be its captain/coach.

"I didn't really want to go, but they finally persuaded me to at least have a look," Halbert said.

"I came back and said no, because they just appointed me as captain of Sturt and I always admired Jack Oatey as a coach and I was pretty keen to play under Jack.

"Looking back, I knew I made the right decision."

Oatey was already well respected as a coach after winning three premierships with Norwood.

His first move was to switch Halbert – who only stood 178cm – to centre half-forward.

"I said, 'Jack, I'm not really tall enough to play centre half-forward', but he said, 'You're a greedy guts and you can mark'," Halbert said.

"The first game against Central District at Elizabeth, I had 42 possessions and kicked eight goals, nine. I was like a dog let off a lead on the big Elizabeth Oval."

Sturt gradually improved and lifted the premiership cup in 1966.

It was the first of five successive flags for the Double Blues, but injury stopped Halbert from playing in their 1967 and 1968 triumphs before he hung up the boots.

He vividly recalls seeing a young Barrie Robran playing for North Adelaide in his first game in 1967.

Former Sturt captain/coach Len Fitzgerald was another favourite of Halbert's, with his ability to play centre half-back, centre half-forward or in the ruck.

After spending time on the SANFL technical committee, Halbert coached Sturt's reserves in 1976 and won the premiership in 1977.

In 1979, he took on the senior coaching job with Glenelg, spending four seasons there before returning to Sturt from 1983-84.

He took his senior teams to three grand finals, but was unable to claim the ultimate prize.

Halbert occupied a range of administrative roles within football, including being a member of the SANFL Football Commission (1996-2008), chairman of selectors with the Adelaide Crows from 1992 to 1994 and a member of the AFL Laws Committee from 2000 to 2008.

He was awarded an MBE in 1969 for services to sport and work among young people, and an Order of Australia (AM) Medal in 2009.

Club Sturt
Born September 5, 1937
Recruited from Unley High School (SA)
Playing career 1955-68
Games 242
Goals 253
Player / administrator honours

Magarey Medal 1961; 2nd Magarey Medal 1955, 1958, 1960; best & fairest 1958, 1960, 1961, 1964; premiership team 1966; captain 1962-68; All-Australian 1961; SA representative (17 games, 9 goals); SANFL life member; awarded MBE in 1969 for services to sport and work among young people; awarded AM in 2009; chairman of SA State of Origin Selection Committee 1992-98; member of SANFL Football Commission 1996-2008; chairman of SA Football Development Foundation 1993-2006; member of SA Football Development Foundation 1970-2006; member AFL Laws Committee 2000-08; member of AFL Australian Football Foundation 1995-98; member SANFL Umpires Board 1985-96; Adelaide chairman of selectors 1992-94.

Coaching record: Glenelg 1979-82 (97 games, 64 wins, 31 losses, 2 draws); Sturt 1983-84 (48 games, 26 wins, 22 losses)

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