'Surreal': Bruce McAvaney's stirring tribute to fallen AFL great

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Veteran sporting commentator Bruce McAvaney made a stirring tribute to South Australian football icon Russell Ebert, who passed away aged 72 last Friday. Pictures: Getty Images
Veteran sporting commentator Bruce McAvaney made a stirring tribute to South Australian football icon Russell Ebert, who passed away aged 72 last Friday. Pictures: Getty Images

Prominent sporting commentator Bruce McAvaney has paid tribute to South Australian football great Russell Ebert, who passed away last week.

Port Adelaide icon Ebert was a defining figure in South Australian football prior to the introduction of the AFL.

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He passed away with family by his side last Friday, aged 72, after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December last year. 

Considered to be one of South Australia's greatest players ever, Ebert played an incredible 392 games for Port Adelaide in the SANFL, guiding them to three premierships.

He also played one season for North Melbourne in the VFL, proving he was not only one of South Australia's best, but one of the best in the nation.

Ebert also won the SANFLs' best and fairest Margary Medal three times.

Two weeks prior to his death Ebert was inducted into the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame, with McAvaney travelling to visit with Ebert for the occasion.

He said that despite knowing Ebert's physical health was declining, you wouldn't have known it on the day of his induction.

“It was an amazing feeling, it was quite surreal to visit Russell on such an important day,” he said.

“Being alongside (North Adelaide great) Barrie Robran, they are so connected. For me it was an absolute joy in many ways.

“I knew that Russell was doing it hard, we all did, but when I walked in he was standing as straight as you’ve ever seen a bloke stand.

“He was very proud but very modest and very humble.”

In accepting his induction into the Hall of Fame, Ebert paid tribute to those who had helped him along his way.

"I'm uncomfortable being elevated above others, but I honestly believe this is about the contribution of my family, the club and community that have contributed along the way," Ebert said at the time.

"These types of awards are for everyone no matter what small or large part they have played and so I thank everyone for their contribution to my journey and in this acknowledgement.

"They all deserve a piece of the acknowledgement for themselves."

AFL world rocked by death of South Australian great Russell Ebert

Ebert is the father of former Port forward Brett Ebert, and the uncle of former West Coast and Port midfielder Brad Ebert.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan paid tribute to Ebert.

"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," McLachlan said.

"All while being an incredibly fair player who relied on his skills while being strong and brave.

"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."

Russell Ebert is pictured coaching a junior AFL clinic in 2013.
Russell Ebert remained a crucial figure at both Port Adelaide and within South Australian football broadly long after his playing days were over. (Photo by Edmond So/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)


392 games for Port Adelaide, 1968-78 and 1980-85, 294 goals

25 games for North Melbourne, 1979, 15 goals

29 games for South Australia

116 games as coach of Port Adelaide, 1983-87

64 games as coach of Woodville, 1988-90

3 games as coach of South Australia, 1996-98

SANFL Premierships: 1977, 1980, 1981

Magarey Medal winner: 1971, 1974, 1976, 1980

Port Adelaide best and fairest: 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981

Port Adelaide captain: 1974-78 and 1983-85

Australian Football Hall of Fame (inaugural 1996 Inductee)

South Australian Football Hall of Fame (inaugural 2002 inductee)

With AAP

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