AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan today paid tribute to four-time Magarey Medallist Russell Ebert OAM as the greatest player in the 151-year history of the Port Adelaide Football Club, and perhaps the greatest man to have been part of the club.
Ebert passed away today at the age of 72 after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December last year.
Officially named as the club's greatest player in 2020 as part of Port Adelaide's 150-year celebrations, McLachlan said Ebert had given South Australia so much more than a brilliant football career, with his decades of work in the local community, patronage of leading charities and support for key social causes, particularly combatting domestic violence and supporting children with serious illness.
Just months before his illness was known, Ebert was named as a national finalist and the South Australian Local Hero for 2021 as part of the Australia Day Awards, recognising his work for the club as manager of its Community Youth Program, which educates primary school children about healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships and STEM. Ebert also worked across a range of other club programs, including the Power to End Violence Against Women program, as an advocate for respectful relationships.
"Russell Ebert was an extraordinary footballer and his record attests to that as the only person in SANFL history with four Magarey Medals, coupled with multiple premierships and nearly 400 senior games just for his beloved Magpies, alongside his brilliant state career and a season with North Melbourne in the VFL.
"As a young fan of the game in Adelaide, even when watching him as an opposition player, you couldn't help but admire his high marking, his one-touch ball-gathering, his brilliant attacking handball and his exceptional kicking skills on both sides of his body, as he was taking your side apart. All while being an incredibly fair player who relied on his skills while being strong and brave.
"As his time in football concluded, Russell then truly blossomed as a humble but strong leader in wider society, not just football, and across more than 30 years he diligently worked every day in seeking to improve his community, using his profile and leadership to show people better ways to treat each other, and assist those who were struggling.
"The child in me will always admire the great footballer but the adult that I am is in awe of what Russell Ebert was as a man, and his loss after bravely confronting his illness is devastating for his family, for his club, his many fans and for the state of South Australia, where he has given so much," Mr McLachlan said.
"He was everything you would hope to be in a man, and perhaps the best of all of us."
Ebert was an inaugural member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame when it was founded in 1996. The wider game offers its sincere condolences to the Ebert family, his many many friends and the Port Adelaide Football Club.
Russell Ebert career record
392 games for Port Adelaide, 1968-78 and 1980-85, 295 goals
25 games for North Melbourne, 1979, 15 goals
29 games for South Australia
116 games coach Port Adelaide, 1983-87
64 games coach Woodville, 1988-90
3 games coach South Australia, 1996-98
1977, 1980-81 Premierships
1971, 1974, 1976, 1980 Magarey Medal
1971-72, 1974, 1976-77, 1981 Best and Fairest
1981 Jack Oatey Medal (Inaugural Grand Final Best on Ground)
1974-78 and 1983-85 Captain
1968 Leading Goalkicker
Port Adelaide Greatest Team (Centre)
Australian Football Hall of Fame (Inaugural 1996 Inductee)
South Australian Football Hall of Fame (Inaugural 2002 inductee)