1971 SANFL Mobil Cards – Part 5: Port Adelaide

 

Port Adelaide commenced its 1971 season with Fos Williams about to begin his nineteenth season in charge. Although Port had won nine premierships under his watch, the most recent was in 1965 and the proud club was becoming impatient for more success.

 

(3) Darrell Cahill – 23, 5ft 10ins, 11st 12lb

 

 

Darrell Cahill played his junior footy for Seaton Ramblers then had a couple of years for the Magpies Colts, before deciding to concentrate on golf in 1967, where he was a State junior champion. He returned to make his 1969 senior debut for Port after some arm-twisting, playing with his older brother and Port captain John Cahill. He retired again after five senior games to represent the State at golf. He came back for the 1970 season and stayed for a decade and beyond.

 

Darrell’s laconic demeanour contrasted with John’s more fervent approach to footy. He was not noted as an enthusiastic trainer (although a run-in with team-mate David Granger belies that), but he always gave 100% on match day. His laid-back exploits were legendary amongst the Magpie faithful, with various combinations of a smoke, a pasty and a Coke said to be his favourite half-time repasts.

 

Cahill only had 24 games to his credit when he was chosen for this 1971 Mobil Card sitting, striking an awkward chest-mark pose.

 

He was a mainstay of the team within a couple of seasons. Initially used on a half back flank, he was also an attacking wingman or rover during the 1971 and 1972 seasons, playing in both losing Grand Finals.

 

Forming a devastatingly effective roving partnership with Brian ‘Bucky’ Cunningham for almost a decade, “DC” continued to give outstanding service to Port, achieving State honours for the first time in 1973.

 

Darrell Cahill looking to sprint away from the pack.

 

Adding plenty of zing around goals, Cahill led the Port goalkicking in 1974 with 54 goals, during John’s first year as coach. Port finished third again in 1975, with Cahill slotting 47 twin calicos and overcoming injury to retain his by then regular State side slot.

 

Port led all comers until the final day of the 1976 season. A Rick Davies master class for the Double Blues left Cahill with no flags to show for his 159 games so far. Cahill’s 1976 scoreboard contribution was a hefty 61 goals.

 

The best for Cahill (and the Magpies) was yet to come.

 

Port Adelaide broke a long (for them anyway) premiership drought of a dozen years when they won the flag in 1977, the SANFL’s centenary year. Cahill laboured with an upper thigh injury and was not able to contribute much on Grand Final day, but his 52 goals that season certainly helped get them there. Cahill may have done even better had he undertaken some pre-season training that year. Fortunately for all, his dalliance with Willsden in the Spencer Gulf League came to nothing.

 

Port finished third in 1978. They more than made up for it over the next three seasons.

 

Cahill was selected for SA for the eighth and final time in 1979. He had already finished runner-up in Port’s B&F five times and was now Port’s most experienced player (thanks to Russell Ebert’s stint with North Melbourne). Port’s finals hardened side brushed Centrals aside in the second-semi and did a similar job on South Adelaide in the decider. Cahill’s flying snap late in the first quarter gave Port a thirty point lead which it held onto for the rest of the game. If there was a Jack Oatey Medal in 1979, it would have been his.

 

Two more Port flags (v Norwood in 1980 and Glenelg in 1981) took Cahill’s tally to four. He played on briefly in 1982, before hanging up his boots and heading back to the golf course, very satisfied with his football career.

 

Playing Career

Port Adelaide 1969-82 263 games/375 goals (4 premierships)

South Australia 8 games

 

 

(13) Russell Ebert – 22, 6ft, 12st 12lb

 

 

Loxton-bred Ebert was spotted playing for Riverland team Waikerie by a very persistent Port Adelaide recruiter in 1967, even though Ebert’s preference at the time may have been North Adelaide, due to his friendship with Kym Lehmann – Russell later married his sister Diane. (Imagine Ebert and Barrie Robran in the same side!).

 

At first travelling down to town for training twice a week, Ebert was assigned to the full forward position in 1968 by coach Fos Williams, which was vacant due to Eric Freeman’s selection in the Ashes tour.  He started in stunning fashion, scoring 15 goals in his first three outings. His 44 majors took out the Port goalkicking, but the Magpies came up short against Sturt on Grand Final day.

 

Ebert was used in the centre and consolidated his spot in the powerful Port lineup in 1969. He was already first choice State centreman by 1970 but Port could only manage 6th and 3rd in those two years. The penny then dropped that footy was more than just a game to him and he realised what football could mean to Russell Ebert.

 

The Mobil photographer’s less than rugged pose (and was he really wearing White Diamond boots?) give no hint that Ebert was on the verge of SA footy greatness.

 

Leading a packed field, Ebert won his first Magarey Medal in 1971 with 21 votes, just ahead of Peter Marker (Glenelg) and Phil Haughan (Centrals) on 20. He also claimed his first Port Best and Fairest.

 

Russell Ebert bursts away in typical fashion.

 

Ebert’s renowned attack on the ball is best exemplified by the man himself in this exchange with Matt Zurbo, while being interviewed for Zurbo’s book “Champions All”.

 

MZ: Tell me about your playing style

 

RE: My philosophy was to go and get the ball. If it was in the air, you had to jump and get it. If it was on the ground, you had to go in harder than everyone else. If someone else had it, you had to get it off them. If your team-mate had the ball then you had to protect him for as long as you could. In a team game you can’t always have the ball, so shepherds, blocks and smothers are important.

 

Sometimes I’d have to knock team-mates out of the way if I knew that I could get the ball even if they couldn’t.

 

Port’s reputation as a club of winners continued to take a beating after North humbled Port in the 1971 Grand Final. This was repeated in 1972, although Ebert’s personal stocks remained high after his second successive B&F, playing mostly at centre half back. In fact, the only positions that he had not played during his first hundred games were wing or full back.

 

Williams’ final year at Alberton, 1973, yielded a disappointing 5th. Incoming coach John Cahill appointed Ebert as Port skipper in 1974.

 

Ebert was one of the best field kickers going around, delivering long range lace-out service throughout his career. His attack on the ball, freakish marking and damaging handball made him one of SA’s top drawcards. A second Magarey and third B&F were evidence of that.

 

Further honours came in 1975, when Ebert earned the State Captaincy, but team success still eluded him. The bitter loss to Sturt in 1976 meant that Port had lost its last six Grand Finals, so Ebert’s fourth B&F was of little personal consolation.

 

Ebert’s 1977 brought many highlights. He captained the premiership side, won a third Magarey, won a fifth best and fairest and captained the State side. Upon receiving the premiership flag after the Magpie’s 8 point win over Glenelg, his famous quote was “It’s taken us a bloody long time but by geez it’s worth it”

 

Port stuttered slightly in 1978, finishing third. Nudging thirty years old, Ebert decided to finally try his hand in the VFL at Barassi’s North Melbourne. Due to business commitments at Motley and Ebert’s Sports Store, Ebert remained based in Adelaide, flying over to Melbourne and back for Tuesday training, back over again for Thursday training and Saturday’s match. Ebert performed admirably in 1979, topping the Roos’ disposals in his 25 games. Port did not lose a beat, winning the 1979 premiership without its star player.

 

Ebert returned to Alberton in 1980, no longer captain but still good enough to take out a record fourth Magarey Medal (despite Bomber Clifford’s Port B&F). A second Ebert flag over the Redlegs rounded out a dominant season.

 

Ebert remained at the top of his game, durable as ever in 1981, taking out the Jack Oatey Medal in a Grand Final thumping of the Bays and adding a sixth Port Best and Fairest.

 

1982 saw Port’s run at the top surprisingly halted by Glenelg in a fiery, malice filled Preliminary Final.

 

John Cahill’s appointment at Collingwood meant that when Ebert took over as Port Adelaide’s captain-coach in 1983, he was only the third Port man at the top since 1962. Ebert was State captain in 1983 (his eventual State game total was 29). However, his three years in the dual roles saw Port finish sixth, runners-up to Norwood and fifth.

 

Ebert stepped down as a player, coaching Port to fourth in both 1986 and 1987. The Magpies expect to win, so these results were not enough for him to keep his job, with John Cahill returning after his spells at Collingwood and West Adelaide.

 

Woodville’s coaching position opened up in 1988 due to Malcolm Blight’s move to Geelong with Ebert coaching the Warriors to seventh that year. They finished eighth and eighth the next two seasons. Ebert was Woodville’s final coach, as the club merged with West Torrens from the 1991 season.

 

Russell Ebert, OAM, is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the SA Football Hall of Fame. He continued to serve the SA footy public in his roles as State of Origin coach 1996-98 and SA junior coach from 1991 to 1999.

 

Ebert is the second of the Mobil 1971 alumni to be honoured with a statue at Adelaide Oval.

 

Playing Career

Port Adelaide 1969-78 1980-85 391 games/295 goals (3 premierships)

North Melbourne 1979 25 games

South Australia 29 games

 

 

(23) Ross Haslam – 24, 5ft 7in, 12st 5lb

 

 

Ross Haslam came to Port Adelaide via the Adelaide University Blacks, where he played the 1964-65 seasons, the latter seeing both team success and individual honours to the slightly built rover/half-forward.

 

Changing from the white V to Port’s prison bars, Haslam joined the reigning premiers in 1966. He played 17 games, including the losing Grand Final against the soon-to-be unstoppable Sturt outfit.

 

1967 was a repeat of 1966, this time Haslam played 15 games mainly from a flank, kept out of a roving spot by Jeff Potter and Greg Leal. Again, Sturt defeated Port at the business end, with Haslam one of the better Magpie players.

 

Another 22 games on the flank in 1968 saw Haslam cement his place in Port’s best twenty, but his team brought up an unwanted hat-trick at the hands of the Double Blues.

 

By the time 1969 was over, Haslam had accumulated 69 games for 47 goals. The 1970 season was Haslam’s best, being runner-up to John Cahill in the Port B&F. Haslam’s 39 goals almost matched the aggregate of his four previous seasons. Port finished third in both of those years.

 

Displaying the Port long sleeved jumper (as in his days for The Blacks), Haslam’s slick handpassing was featured in his 1971 Mobil Card pose, although he does not appear to be decked out in his usual number 11.

 

Haslam was rarely in the spotlight as a player

 

Haslam was now ensconced in the Port roving ranks, sharing on-ball duties with first-year Brian Cunningham and Trevor Grimwood for much of the season. Haslam’s final game for Port Adelaide was another unsuccessful Grand Final, this time against North Adelaide.

 

He returned to Amateur League club Old Scotch in 1972. During the next decade at Scotch, Haslam gained All-Australian Amateur selection three times, named as vice-captain in 1979.

 

Playing Career

Port Adelaide  1966-71 113 games/108 goals

 

(33) John Cahill – 31, 5ft 10in, 11st 7lb

 

 

John Cahill, using his auntie’s Wright St Adelaide address, got his start at South Adelaide Colts, winning the McCallum Medal in 1956. Cahill’s uncle Laurie was a former South premiership player and coach.

 

However, once Port Adelaide got wise, Big Bob McLean and Fos Williams paid a visit to his Seaton home, strongly suggesting that John (aka Jack) would be welcome at Alberton.

 

He made his debut in 1958 during Port’s run of six successive flags, playing under Williams that year, but did not play in their narrow Grand Final win over West. Geof Motley repeated that result in 1959, his first year as coach, with the lightly framed left-footed Cahill on the wing. Cahill made his SA debut that year.

 

With the return of Williams in 1962, Port won three of the next four premierships and Cahill was in Port’s best players in each of them. The Magpies’ only blemish was in South’s bottom-to-top flag in 1964.

 

Cahill developed as a pacy, skilful and creative player, equally at home in the centre, on a wing or as a flanker. In South Australia’s famous 1963 win at the MCG against Victoria, Cahill dominated his wing (as did Barrie Barbary on the other). He was also prominent in SA’s huge win against the Vics in 1965.

 

Port was to suffer three Grand Final losses at the hands of Sturt from 1966 to 1968 – Cahill was acting captain in the first of these before becoming skipper in 1967, a role that he held until the end of his career. He was best and fairest in two of those years, 1966 and 1968.

 

Remaining one of SA’s premier players throughout, Cahill received possibly his highest personal accolade when, as state captain, he named as All-Australian vice-captain after the 1969 Carnival. Port’s sixth placing that year was the only time that they missed the finals during Cahill’s playing days.

 

Jack Cahill displays his renowned balance.

 

1965 seemed a distant memory for the rest of Jack’s on-field career, as the finals near-misses accumulated. In 1970, he snared his third best and fairest.

 

Repeating his 1964 Mobil Card appearance in 1971, he was caught in mid-flight after a tentative left-foot roost – perhaps he was still getting used to his brand new adidas screw-ins (still with the sticker on the sole).

 

A pair of late-September losses to North Adelaide in 1971-72 gave Cahill a 4-6 record in Grand Finals, which proved to be a motivating factor in future years.

 

In 1973, the 33 year old’s final season as a player, Cahill won his fourth B&F and also his only top goalkicker award with 59 goals. He brought up his 250th game that season, but Port were put out of the finals race in the first week by Norwood.

 

It was no surprise that John Cahill took over as Port Adelaide coach in 1974, with Fos Williams moving to West Adelaide. Port’s disappointing loss to the Double Blues in 1976 continued the Magpies streak of losing Grand Finals. From that point on however, Cahill coached Port to ten Grand Finals (1977,79,80,81,88,89,90,92,94,95) without another loss.

 

Cahill spent 1983 and 1984 as Collingwood’s coach in the VFL. Despite leading  them to 6th and 3rd in those two seasons, that was it. Cahill’s next three years at West Adelaide were relatively successful, but there was no repeat of his mate Kerls’ 1983 success for the Blood and Tars. Returning to Alberton in 1988, replacing Russell Ebert as Port’s coach, he accumulated flags over the next nine seasons like a Largs Bay seagull accumulated hot chips, outpointing his mentor Fos Williams as Port’s most successful coach of all time.

 

Port Adelaide’s admission to the AFL in 1997 meant that Cahill handed over the SANFL team’s reins to Stephen Williams (son of Fos) during the 1996 season. Williams guided the Magpies to yet another flag as Cahill prepared for his new role as coach of the Port Adelaide Power.

 

Jack Cahill’s two years in the AFL laid the foundations for Port’s successful run under coach Mark Williams (Fos’ eldest son). A perfect example of “the true Port Adelaide tradition”.

 

Cahill was arm-twisted out of retirement for another season of coaching in 2005, returning Port’s SANFL side to finals after a few years absence, his job done. Completing the circle of footy life, Cahill was appointed coach of South Adelaide in 2008, but this ended messily early in the season.

 

John Cahill is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame because of his outstanding coaching record. He is also a member of the SA Football Hall of Fame. Port Adelaide’s AFL Best and Fairest player is awarded the John Cahill Medal.

 

Playing Career

Port Adelaide  1958-73 264 games/286 goals (4 premierships)

South Australia 29 games

 

 

To read all parts in the 1971 SANFL Mobil Footy Cards Series click Here

 

To return to the Home Page click HERE.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Superb as always,Swish good to see Ross Haslam get a mention,Darren Cahill’s laconic nature is famous around the traps.Huge respect for Russell yes brilliant footballer but sees the whole picture does a huge amount for a lot of charities,John Cahill fantastic record thanks,Swish

  2. Love it Swish.

  3. My Port supporting cousin informed me that Russell was on deck yesterday at Alberton signing cartons of Pirate Life’s “Prison Bar” beer. Not missing the opportunity I mentioned to him that Port aligning itself with a trendy brewer seemed more appropriate to an aspirational and not a traditional membership and what exactly was going on under President Koch. Whilst robust, our discussion remains unresolved.

    Thanks Swish.

  4. Had forgotten just how many goals D. Cahill kicked. Used to love watching him play, slightly unorthodox, but extremely effective. Ebert’s games total is incredible in the current climate. Thanks for your time and effort, Swish.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    All I can hope to do is try to bring the stories of these players to a wider audience than just their own club’s fans, and to do them justice. I hope I’ve done so here.

    Thanks for taking the time to give this a look.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    A very enjoyable read with a few anecdotal additions of which some were new to me. Darrell Cahill’s golf exploits were well known over here. There have been a few articles on footballers and their golfing talent recently. Which other Port players could have had their story told here? Also loved the observations on the gear they were wareing.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Wow, how impressive are the careers of Ebert and the Cahills.

    How long did the hooped socks Port Adelaide era last?

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks DS – Big Footy is good for something.

    Ta Luke – I’d forgotten how good D Cahill was. 1971 was the last year of the hooped socks.

    Another curiosity is that Port’s team photos of that era were all done in their woollen long sleeves, even though the lace-ups were generally worn on match day.

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