Russell Ebert, one of South Australia’s greatest-ever footballers, has passed away after a battle with leukemia.
Tributes have poured in for Australian rules football legend Russell Ebert, who passed away on Friday.
An iconic figure in South Australian football, Ebert was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December last year and died from the illness at age 72.
Between 1968 and 1985, Ebert played 392 games for Port Adelaide, more than any other player in the club’s history, and was named its all-time greatest player as part of last year’s 150-year celebrations.
He won three premierships as a player and was a six-time club best-and-fairest winner at Port Adelaide and also played for North Melbourne for one season in 1979.
After his retirement, he coached Port Adelaide for 116 games and was an inaugural inductee into both the Australian football Hall of Fame and the South Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Ebert was just as revered off the field.
His tireless work with the Power’s Community Youth Program, which educates children about health and wellbeing, led him to be named a national finalist and the South Australian Local Hero for 2021 as part of the Australia Day Awards.
He also closely worked with Port Adelaide’s End Violence Against Women program.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan paid tribute to Ebert’s life and career.
“Russell Ebert was an extraordinary footballer,” McLachlan said.
“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.
“He was everything you would hope to be in a man, and perhaps the best of all of us.”
The tributes flowed on social media as well.
Former South Australian Premier Mike Rann remembered Ebert as “a champion footballer and a champion person”.
Entertainer David Campbell wrote: “I grew up watching the great Russell Ebert. He was one of the greats. My thoughts to his family RIP”.
“During its 151-year history, there have been so many champions of our club, and a handful of Legends … Russell Ebert stands tall among the Legends of @PAFC,” tweeted media personality and Port Adelaide president David Koch.
“While all of the champions and Legends played for Port Adelaide, Russell lived Port Adelaide.”
“This is very sad news,” wrote comedian Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann.
“It was always a joy to be in his presence, there was something very special about him. A legendary footballer, a great product of the Riverland and a wonderful human being. Thoughts are with his family. Vale Russell Ebert.”