Port Adelaide’s history is so rich, so deep that naming its team of the 20th century would have short-changed the pioneers from the club’s first 30 years.
So Port Adelaide in June 2001 announced its Greatest Team (1870-2000) from two centuries.
And as the club, either as the original blue-and-white Ports of Buck’s Flat in 1870, the rose-wearing 'Pinkeyites' or crimson-and-blue-donning 'Magentas' of the late 1800s, or as the Magpies, has achieved unparalleled success in Australian football, it is hailed as the “Greatest Team of the Greatest Club”.
All 22 members of the all-time greatest Port Adelaide team played significant parts in ensuring the club’s rise from the SANFL to the AFL in 1997 - and the demand of the SA Football Commission that a Magpies team be kept in the South Australian league.
Port Adelaide hailed its greatest 22 names at a presentation dinner before 1100 Port Adelaide devotees at the Adelaide Convention Centre in June, along with the 51 players who were nominated for the side and the more than 1000 players who made Port Adelaide so great that it gained an AFL licence.
Five club greats were handed the task of selecting a side that would inevitably provoke debate and much more reminiscing of Port Adelaide’s greatest achievements. Bob Quinn, Fos Williams, Dave Boyd, Russell Ebert and Greg Phillips had to choose the greatest 22. Record-breaking coach John Cahill declined his seat on the selection panel.
Their guidelines were to come up with a team that, true to Port Adelaide ethos, would win on Saturday. Every nominee had to have played or coached at least 50 games with Port Adelaide.
They came up with 51 names, spanning from the 19th Century to the change of the millennium. Of that group, 50 had played or coached a Port Adelaide premiership side; 49 had represented South Australia and 13 had won 16 Magarey Medals.
Some of the choices were easily made. Tim Evans, as the SANFL’s best post-war goalkicker with 1044 goals in 248 games, had to be at full forward. Triple All-Australian John Abley was the standout full back. Four-time Magarey Medallist Russell Ebert had to be in the centre.
At least one player from the three distinctive eras of the club made the final 22. In the pre-Magpie and black-and-white days (1870-1901), Harry Phillips won a place on the interchange bench to honour his 19th Century greatness that included four club best-and-fairest awards, including three in a row from 1891-1893.
From the start of the black-and-white era in 1902 to the arrival of Fos Williams at Alberton in 1950, there are four champions acknowledged – the incomparable Bob Quinn, his midfield partner “Bull” Reval, centre half-forward “Bro” Dayman and the magnificent Harold Oliver who soared above the packs before World War I to be football’s Cazaly before Roy Cazaly.
It is no surprise that the team is dominated by 17 players from the club’s golden age from 1950 when Fos Williams started a nine-premiership reign that was topped by John Cahill’s 10 flags that ensured Port Adelaide could not have been ignored in the expansion of the AFL with a second South Australian-based team.
Williams being named captain-coach recognised the transformation he made to the Magpies with nine premierships in 16 grand finals, including thesix-in-a-row grand finals (1953-1958) and five successive flags(1954-1958) as captain-coach. Ebert is the team’s vice-captain.
There are 201 premiership medals held by the 22 players in the Greatest Team; 532 State games; 16 Magarey Medals and a long list of football accolades and achievements that allow Port Adelaide to have the greatest of the celebratory teams picked with the turn of the century.