Port Adelaide veteran and football great Russell Ebert has died from leukemia at the age of 72.

Key points:

  • Russell Ebert played 392 games for Port Adelaide
  • He won four Magarey Medals and one Jack Oatey Medal
  • Ebert was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia last December

The Port Adelaide Football Club released a statement on Friday evening. 

“The Port Adelaide Football Club on behalf of the Ebert family sadly advises that club legend Russell Ebert passed away peacefully this afternoon after a battle with leukemia,” the statement said.

“The four-time Magarey Medallist and member of the Port Adelaide Football Club and Australian Football Hall of Fame passed away at home surrounded by his family.” 

Port Adelaide legend Russell Ebert in action for the Magpies.(Port Adelaide Football Club)

“The club asks that the Ebert family’s privacy is respected at this time and thanks everyone on the family’s behalf for the love and support it has received in recent months.” 

Ebert played a club-record 392 games for the Magpies in the SANFL between 1968 and 1985, with a season at North Melbourne in the VFL in 1979.

He won three premierships and six best and fairest awards at Port Adelaide.

He was a member of the Australian and SANFL football halls of fame. 

Just last month he was elevated to “legend” status in the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame.

The ever-humble Ebert was told of the honour at his home, with the presentation made by fellow football great Barrie Robran.

“Thank you so, so much … that means a lot,” Ebert said at the time. 

Robran, Sport SA chief executive Leah Cassidy, broadcaster Bruce McAvaney, and Port Adelaide chief executive Matthew Richardson made the trip to Ebert’s home to deliver the award personally.

Former rivals and friends, Russell Ebert and Barrie Robran are considered the two greatest Aussie rules players South Australia has produced.(Supplied: Jordan Bianchini)

Ebert entered the SA Sport Hall of Fame in 2012 and his elevation to legend was not just an acknowledgment of his football deeds.

He was involved in charity work for more than two decades, including raising money for the children’s charity Novita and being a leader of the Power’s Community Youth Program.

“You have to be a champion both on the field and off the field to be a real legend, and that’s what Russell has been able to achieve,” AFL commentator Bruce McAvaney said.

“The things he’s done in the decades since he was a footballer are just as important if not more important,”

Port Adelaide’s Russell Ebert holds a premiership flag.(Port Adelaide Football Club)

Ebert showed his trademark on-field determination during his fight with leukemia.

He said Port Adelaide’s 1977 premiership – after a 12-year period involving six grand final losses – was the highlight of his playing career.

“You can chuck in medals and state games and all that, but when you win that premiership, you win it for the whole club, you win it for every supporter,” Ebert said. 


‘PAFC’s greatest player’

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan paid tribute to Ebert, describing him as the greatest player in the 151-year history of the Port Adelaide Football Club. 

“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,” he said. 

Russell Ebert is immortalised in a statue outside Adelaide Oval.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)

McLachlan said when Ebert’s time in football concluded he “truly blossomed” as a humble but strong leader in wider society. 

“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,” he said. 

“He was everything you would hope to be in a man, and perhaps the best of all of us.”

‘Once in a generation champion’


Tributes have been flowing for the football legend online. 

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas tweeted:

“Post-footy, he did incredible work through Port Adelaide’s community programs and other charity work.

“He may no longer be with us, but the memories of his heroic exploits on and off the field will live on forever.

“Vale Russell Ebert.” 

Fellow Port Adelaide Football Club great John Cahill said Ebert was a “once in a generation champion”. 

“We all respect his wonderful sporting achievements, but as a husband, father, grandfather, brother he truly shone,” he wrote on Twitter. 

The Adelaide Football Club also paid tribute to Ebert, tweeting: 

“Russell Ebert has far too many honours to fit into one tweet. All we can say is, the football world and SA is lesser without you.”

ABC News understands Premier Steven Marshall will contact the Ebert family to offer a state funeral or memorial service. 

Posted , updated