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‘We love you dad’: Russell Ebert farewelled at state funeral


The life of South Australian footballing icon Russell Ebert has been celebrated at his state funeral today, with his family paying tribute to a legacy which “extended far beyond the football field and into people’s lives”.

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A crowd of around 4000 gathered at Alberton Oval this morning, joined by another 2000 people online, to farewell the Port Adelaide great and four-time Magarey Medallist who passed away two weeks ago after an 11-month battle with leukemia.

Ebert’s coffin was draped in the colours of his beloved football club, for whom he played 392 games senior games from 1968 to 1985.

The first to speak was Uncle Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien, a former Magpies teammate of Ebert’s in the 80s, who delivered the welcome to country.

“He was my teammate, he was my coach and he was also a friend, but he was also family,” Uncle Mickey told the crowd.

“Today we call upon the spirit people of our ancestors to bring us good blessings, to send away that sad and importantly, to send this spirit of this great man to the place that we call Karta (Island of the Dead).”

Ebert’s family, along with Premier Steven Marshall, gather for today’s state funeral (Photo Tony Lewis/InDaily)

Ebert’s eldest brother Bill was the first family member to speak in front of the Alberton crowd, recalling his childhood days with Russell in Berri and Loxton.

He paid tribute to Russell’s ability to embody the advice of his dad to “do at least one good deed for someone every day … never take anything in life for granted and always visit the elderly, the disadvantaged as much as possible”.

“Rest in peace brother, I’ll miss the Thursday night phone calls,” Bill said.

“About quarter to six every Thursday, he’d ring me up, see how I was going.

“You will forever be in our hearts mate, thank you very much.”

The crowd at Alberton Oval for Ebert’s state funeral today (Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily).

Ebert’s three children Tammie, Benjamin and Brett delivered a joint speech to the crowd.

Tammie thanked the State Government and the Port Adelaide Football club for “allowing us to share this time with those who dad touched the most at a place where he created everlasting memories”.

Ebert’s three children: Tammie, Benjamin and Brett (Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily).

“Russell, Russ, ‘herb’, Ebo, ‘God’ – but to us we had the privilege of calling him Dad,” Tammie said.

“His legacy is a testament to his ability to forge a reputation which extended far beyond the football field and into people’s lives.

“Dad worked hard. Between football, running his own businesses and all of his charity work, we saw the preparation that he put into everything he did.”

Benjamin said: “Dad was always there to help provide advice, a shoulder to cry on, someone to get footy tickets off or some discount from the shops.”

“He always helped those who are less fortunate, made people feel comfortable, always listened with empathy.

“He knew someone in every bakery in South Australia and the best ones to go to.

“When people introduce themselves – and there were thousands – they would say ‘remember me’, and he did.

“His ability to remember something about everyone was astonishing, he always made people feel like they were valued and respected and gave time to everyone who crossed his path.”

(Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily)

Brett, who played 166 games for Port Adelaide from 2004 to 2013, told the crowd about his father’s resilience throughout his battle with cancer.

“In true Dad style, he took on the challenge,” he said.

“For the first time in his life, he had to put himself first and put his life in the hands of many other people – but that was hard.

“People would ring to see how he was going, then it would get diverted to talking about their own problems, and has Dad has always done, he genuinely listened and consoled them, despite the fact he was fighting the battle of his life.

“Every time he was dealt a blow, he would reset and say ‘onwards and upwards’ or ‘it is what it is’ and take on the next challenge.

“The world has lost a man whose life was devoted to others.

“Never did Dad’s words contradict his actions, nor his actions contradict his words.

“We had the privilege no others had of calling Russell Ebert our dad and our best mate.

“We love you dad.”

The crowd later heard from Port Adelaide great Tim Ginever and CEO Matthew Richardson, before Ebert’s coffin was carried into the back of a hearse and given a lap of honour around Alberton Oval.

(Photo: Tony Lewis/ InDaily).

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