Thursday, 13 August 2015

Russell Ebert: Not Just A Champion Footballer

At the age of 6 in 1990, I remember playing Balloon Soccer at Regency Park Centre (commonly referred to as a 'special school') when I saw a middle aged man off to the side. He had a mullet with a slightly grey tinge. You could tell the older kids knew who he was, you sensed that they loved him.

"Who's that?" I asked

"It's Russell Ebert!"

Russell Ebert, as even a passing fan of South Australian Football would know (and I would find out just moments later), was my home state's best, most consistent and is its most decorated player. On Saturday a statue of him will be unveiled at Adelaide Oval​. He was not only a champion footballer, but he is champion human too.

Russell turned up to my Electric Wheelchair Sports Awards Ceremonies every year and presented all the trophies to us. My favourite year was 1995, when I picked up 9 trophies, including sweeping all of the junior categories. At that awards night I was 11. I had surgery 3 weeks before to lengthen my already tight hamstrings and was forced to wear splints with my legs outstretched. I was in pain and despite my successful night, still not very happy. As I collected my last trophy Russell shook my hand and said something I will never, ever forget.

Now you've got more trophies than I have

All my pain was gone.

If you're wondering why I follow Port Adelaide Football Club​ so passionately look no further for a better example. The club's greatest player ever gave his time, and more importantly his respect, to us. We didn't ask him to come. He wanted to.

This was long before footy players were posting all their good deeds on social media. He just did it. No Camera crews, no promotions, he just cared.  

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