I rise today to speak today to recognise the amazing contribution that Russell Ebert has made to sport in South Australia, in particular to Australian Rules Football, and to his tireless commitment to the people of South Australia through his voluntary work with various community programs and not-for-profit organisations.
The Ebert name is synonymous with the Port Adelaide Football Club with Russell’s own senior playing career spanning 18 years of remarkable achievements.
Russell was recruited from the Loxton Football Club in 1968. He played 392 games for Port Adelaide, 25 games in one season for North Melbourne, interspersed with 29 games representing South Australia, for a career total of 446 games. In his debut year in 1968, he made an immediate impact being Port Adelaide’s leading goal kicker as an 18-year-old. He kicked 295 goals for Port Adelaide and 15 goals for North Melbourne, for a total of 310 career goals. Russell was Port Adelaide’s Captain for 8 seasons from 1974 to 1978 and from 1983 to 1985, and Captain of South Australia in 1975, 1977 and 1983. He won Port Adelaide’s Best and Fairest Award on 6 occasions, and he won the South Australian National Football League’s Magarey Medal on a record 4 occasions in 1971, 1974, 1976 and 1980.
Russell played in 3 Premierships and won the Jack Oatey Medal in 1981 being adjudged the Best Player in that Grand Final.
Russell coached Port Adelaide in 116 games over 5 seasons and was actually a playing Coach from 1983 to 1985. He then coached Woodville in 64 games over 3 seasons, for a total coaching career of 180 games. He was also Coach of South Australia from 1996 to 1998.
He has been recognised with Life Membership of both the Port Adelaide Football Club and the South Australian National Football League, he was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996, and was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Playing for North Melbourne in 1979, Russell was reluctant to leave his beloved South Australia, so he would take a flight to Melbourne every Thursday to train with the team and return after games. Even with that schedule, he played every game and gathered more disposals than any other North Melbourne player.
Port Adelaide further recognised Russell by naming him in the Centre of its greatest ever team, and “The Advertiser” newspaper rated him the greatest ever Port Adelaide player in the Club’s 150 year history.
Being described as a strong, fast, determined, skilful player with a commending on-field presence, Russell Ebert has always demonstrated modesty, humility, and respect, often avoiding the media spotlight.
A combined playing and coaching career that is unrivalled.
Russell’s brothers Craig (168 games) and Jeff (1 game) also had careers in the SANFL. Russell’s son Brett was Port Adelaide’s first ever father-son recruit. Brett played 64 games for Port in the SANFL and 166 games for Port in the AFL kicking 240 goals. Like his father, Brett won the 2003 Magarey Medal. Furthermore, Russell’s nephew, Brad Ebert played 260 AFL games, 76 with West Coast before he came home and played 184 games for Port Adelaide, kicking a combined 140 goals for the two Clubs.
Following his playing career, Russell’s attention switched to giving his time and energy to others and to enhance the lives of those less fortunate. His tireless commitment to help others is renowned.
He undertook voluntary fundraising activities for Novita (formerly known as the Crippled Children’s Association) and is a strong Ambassador for that cause. Russell’s other involvements include leading Port Adelaide’s “Community Youth Program” which is the longest running in-school program in the AFL, educating primary school children about healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships, and STEM. There is also the “Power to End Violence Against Woman” program, the “Domestic Violence Prevention Program”, and “Team Russell”, which in conjunction with Brett and Brad Ebert, promotes and recruits blood donors to the Red Cross Lifeblood Donor Centre. Russell even joined Foodbank during the COVID-19 lockdown undertaking home hamper deliveries.
In 1984, Russell Ebert was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in recognition of service to the sport of Australian rules football. In 2021, Russell’s work with Port Adelaide’s Community Programs as an advocate for respectful relationships was recognised with the South Australian Local Hero Award.
His recent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia during a routine health check presents a challenge that Russell has accepted with a positive attitude and is undertaking extensive treatment. It was during a rare recent interview that typifies the values and humility that Russell lives by every day when he shared what a “blessed life” he has lived.
A truly remarkable South Australian and incredible person.