SA football started its sixth season of organised competition with six teams - and a new club (Royal Park) after the Adelaide Football Club merged and collapsed with Kensington early in the 1881 season. Port Adelaide stood on principle by forfeiting its third match for the season against Norwood after the SA Football Association refused to have the game played at Alberton Oval.

Port Adelaide, after carrying six losses and three draws from nine games with its new rival in the east, beat Norwood for the first time ... on May 27 and on Adelaide Oval. There was a controversial finish as umpire Knill quickly dulled Norwood's celebrations on and off the field by ruling Port Adelaide follower George Gliddon touched the goal-bound kick of John Watson in the dying moments of the match.

And the Adelaide City Baths opened offering swimming for the masses for 90 years until the pools were filled in for the Adelaide Festival Centre.

We can be heroes, forever and ever ...

Port Adelaide has heroes who are remembered forever with the names and guernsey numbers on duffel coats, on giant posters pinned to bedroom doors, with enamel pins, in autograph books ... and on music sheets.

The list of Port Adelaide champions with hero status among the fans runs to a Greatest Team named in 2001 and several Halls of Fame at club, state and national level that include Australian football "royalty".

But who is the first Port Adelaide player to be lauded and worshipped by the club's fans for his football heroics?

In 1882, midway through a season filled with firsts and no shortage of controversy on and off the field for Port Adelaide, the club had a tribute sung for its first notable hero: The English-born Thomas G. Smith.

A member of the 1870 originals in blue-and-white, Smith was Port Adelaide's best-and-fairest champion in the club's first three seasons in the newly formed SA Football Association. After retiring at the end of the 1881 season - to continue life as a successful tailor on Commercial Road at Port Adelaide - Smith was feted with the dedication to a song for the Port Adelaide Football Club.

First published in the Port Adelaide News on Friday, July 7, 1882, the song advocated letting "friend and rival know how Ports can rally, mark and kick for goal".

The well-known lyrics of "Work Boys, Work" were rephrased to "Play boys, play" with the second verse noting, "Our rivals yet will say, 'See the Ports as one man play, the Magenta boys are skillful as they're strong'."

Smith was born in London in 1851 and moved to Port Adelaide as a three-year-old as his parents sought new destinies in the new colony of South Australia. His playing record has 103 club games, 69 in the SAFA competition for SA football premierships from 1877-1881.

Beyond football and tailoring, Smith clearly had built a reputation as a personality as noted by reports from 1881 when Victorian powerhouse Carlton was starting its tour of Adelaide after travelling from Melbourne on the steamer Victorian.

From the Port Adelaide News of June 11, 1881: 

Mr. T. G. Smith, the enthusiastic member of the Port Adelaide Football Club who has always been prominently identified with its movements, proceeded by train to the Semaphore with the intention of going off to meet the visitors, but owing to the train being delayed by a 'bus which had broken down on the line, he was unable to accomplish his purpose, and had to content himself with meeting the team at the wharf. He succeeded, however, in obtaining a footing upon the steamer five minutes before any other individual was prepared to attempt the perilous feat, and by the time the vessel was alongside was ready to perform the ceremony of introduction for the numerous footballers and patrons of the game who had assembled to meet the visitors. 


Port Adelaide's first home-grown hero is Harry "Tick" Phillips, the only player from the 19th century to earn selection in the club's Greatest Team from 1870-2000.

Born in Queenstown, the versatile ruckman played 198 games from 1886-1900, kicking 125 goals and defending many more in the era when club secretary Robert Cruickshank was building a formidable football program at Alberton.

Phillips played in the club's second and third premierships (1890 and 1897), first Champion of Australia title in 1890, was club captain in his final two seasons (1899 and 1900) and best-and-fairest in 1888 and for three consecutive seasons from 1891. 

The 20th century has a grand parade of Port Adelaide champions and heroes on and off the field - and often more than one name is added to the list each decade. Harold Oliver, Shine Hosking, Alan "Bull" Reval, Bob Quinn, Fos Williams, Geof Motley, John Cahill, Trevor Obst, Russell Ebert, Tim Evans, Scott Hodges, Greg Phillips ... 

The club's move to the AFL in 1997 created a new wave of heroes for a new era, in particular on the road to the breakthrough national league premiership in 2004 with Matthew Primus, Warren Tredrea, Peter and Shaun Burgoyne, Michael Wilson, Norm Smith Medallist Byron Pickett, the Cornes brothers Chad and the 300-game Kane ...

And in the SANFL the challenge of stringing together premierships in the 1990s - to underline the club's passage to the AFL - and then the task of maintaining traditions in the State league put hero status on grand warriors such as Tim Ginever, George Fiacchi, Darren Smith and Steve Summerton, the last Port Adelaide player to reach the 200-game milestone in black-and-white.

So mesmerising is this roll call of heroes the club could field several themed teams of grand achievers ... and start a heavy debate on which super side is the greatest.

With 19 Magarey Medallists as the SANFL's fairest and most brilliant player - including the record-breaking Russell Ebert with his four Magarey Medals - Port Adelaide has line-up that would draw a standing ovation on taking the field. And a team crafted on this theme would leave out two Port Adelaide champions, Harold Oliver and John Cahill, who are both considered unlucky to not have the SANFL's highest individual honour.

By 2001, at the start of a new century and new millennium, the Port Adelaide Football Club decided to take on the task (and challenge) of selecting its "Greatest Team" since inception in 1870.

From a starting field of more than 1000 players who had represented Port Adelaide in league football, there were 51 nominated for the "Greatest Team" since 1870. The onerous moments in settling on the final 22 was left to five of the club's greatest achievers, Bob Quinn, Fos Williams, Dave Boyd, Russell Ebert and Greg Phillips. Together, these five selectors had personal accounts of Port Adelaide's story from the start in 1870 to the end of the 20th century.

Selection was based on an eligibility criteria of nominees having played at least 50 league games for Port Adelaide - and the final 22-man line-up had to be true to the club's ethos of playing to win each time it took the field.

The achievements of these heroes are lauded in the Port Adelaide Football Club Archives Collection.

You can be among the first to read all of the Port Adelaide Football Club's story since 1870 by pre-ordering this commemorative book that chronicles how a juggernaut from Alberton was created and how it became loved and loathed in equal measure.

The limited-edition piece gives members and supporters rare insight into the club's storied history, as the Port Adelaide Football Club History Committee, along with key staff, worked tirelessly to put together a piece that encapsulates every element of the club's rich history.

The collection gives never before seen access to the moments in time that made Port Adelaide Australia's most decorated football club and includes rare photographs, profiles of star players from the club’s 150-year history, and unseen lift out memorabilia including replica player medals, premiership cards, Fos Williams’ coaching notes and so much more.

All of Port Adelaide's True Believers can also be a part of this incredible piece of the club's history, with a special section within the book dedicated to the passionate supporters that have shared the club's journey from the wharves of Port Adelaide to the national stage.

For a limited time upload a photo to be featured in this special section, making the collection the perfect gift to commemorate the club's special place in your life.

Click here to secure your unique piece of Port Adelaide history.