HE has won four Magarey Medals, six club best and fairest awards and has been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, but accepting his latest honour made Russell Ebert feel uneasy.
Ebert was on Monday night announced as the winner of the 2021 South Australian Local Hero Award, recognising his work with Port Adelaide’s Community Programs.
Involved with the Port Adelaide Football Club since 1968 as a champion player and coach, Ebert came up with the idea of running programs in schools more than 20 years ago and has since been the manager of the Community Youth Program, which educates primary school children about healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships and STEM.
He also assists with a range of other club programs including the Power to End Violence Against Women program, and it is for his work as an advocate for respectful relationships that he has been recognised.
Ebert was presented with his award as part of the SA Australian of the Year Awards function at Adelaide Oval, beating three other finalists.
“The whole night recognised what individuals and groups and clubs and different organisations around Adelaide and the state are doing on a daily basis so when they narrow it down, I’m not 100% comfortable narrowing it down to one, two, three or four,” he told portadelaidefc.com.au, explaining how he felt about receiving the award ahead of others who make significant contributions to the state.
“They all do super work and the acknowledgement just gives them all a bit of a lift and encourages them to keep doing what they’re doing and recognition that they are doing something good for the community.”
Quick to shift the attention away from himself, Ebert thanked the Port Adelaide Football Club and the players who help deliver the school-based programs, saying his award was also a recognition of their work and support.
“This is a real positive story as to what all of these wonderful organisations do and the Port Adelaide Football Club is one of those,” he explained.
“They’ve always been community-minded, they’ve always supported the community and they will continue to do it so it’s great recognition of what the club does and what the players do too.
“There are often negative stories about what the players do but geez, they do a hell of a lot more positive work and community work is evidence of that.
“They’re the ones delivering the programs and delivering the messages. We can write these programs but the players and female athletes we bring in to deliver them have to be genuine so that the messages are understood, accepted and shared by the young people and their families who we work with.”
Ebert played a club record 392 games from 1968 to 1985, winning a record four Magarey Medals as the SANFL’s best player in 1971, 1974, 1976 and 1980.
His career included captaining the Magpies to their drought-breaking 1977 premiership triumph as well as being instrumental in the 1980 and 1981 Grand Final victories.
Named centre in the club’s Greatest Ever Team from 1870-2000, he captained the club from 1974 to 1978, was captain-coach from 1983-1985 and after retiring as a player coached the club in 1986 and 1987.
He won six club best and fairest awards, and also played 25 games for North Melbourne in 1979.
Despite all of his accolades, Ebert remains steadfast that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and it is a message he will continue to share.
“It’s ultra-important that we acknowledge how important respectful relationship are,” he said.
“Whether it’s respecting yourself, respectful relationships with your family, respect in the workplace, respect between men and women, men and men, women and women – respect is the fabric of our existence.”
Ebert will be South Australia’s representative for the national Local Hero award at the Australia Day Awards in January.
The Community Youth Program is a supported by the Department for Education, Seeley International and the Naval Group.
The Power to End Violence Against Women program is developed with Centacare Catholic Services and the Department for Education.
South Australia’s state recipient of Australian of the Year is General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL, Tanya Hosch.
Ms Hosch is the first Indigenous person and second woman appointed to the AFL executive.