Kerley to be honoured with state funeral

The family of South Australian football icon Neil Kerley has accepted the offer of a state funeral.

Jul 01, 2022, updated Jul 01, 2022
Neil Kerley is chaired from the ground after coaching Glenelg to its drought-breaking 1973 Grand Final win against North Adelaide. Photo: SANFL

Neil Kerley is chaired from the ground after coaching Glenelg to its drought-breaking 1973 Grand Final win against North Adelaide. Photo: SANFL

Kerley, 88, died on Wednesday evening while driving to his River Murray retreat at Walker’s Flat.

The South Australian football legend won four SANFL flags at three clubs across three decades as a player and coach.

Premier Peter Malinauskas confirmed this morning that Kerley’s wife Barbara along with the rest of the family had accepted the State Government’s offer of a state funeral.

“She was needless to say very grateful for the offer but more importantly humbled at the fact the state would want to acknowledge him in this way,” he told Fiveaa radio this morning.

“I think for everybody else we know that this is utterly appropriate given Neil Kerley’s contribution to the people of South Australia.”

Malinauskas said details of the funeral including its time and location will be confirmed in coming days.

“I’m very keen to make sure that the state funeral is done in a way that’s done with all the family’s requests,” he said.

“They know Neil best and how to honour him best, and this will be a state funeral that’s arranged very much in conjunction with the family’s wishes.”

The occasion will mark the second state funeral for a South Australian football legend in 12 months, after Port Adelaide icon Russell Ebert was honoured at Alberton Oval last November.

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Kerley’s death on Wednesday prompted an outpouring of emotional tributes across the football world.

Colloquially known as “knuckles”, Kerley played 275 SANFL games as a player with West Adelaide, South Adelaide and Glenelg.

He then went on to have a storied 628-game career as a coach and was also influential in the formation of the state’s first AFL side, serving as the Adelaide Crows’ first football manager.

His achievements as the ‘the king’ of SA football were recognised with induction into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1997.

The club’s chairman John Olsen said t Kerley’s “contribution to the game is immeasurable and he embodied what it means to be a proud and passionate South Australian”.

“As a player and coach, he was tough and uncompromising and he commanded respect, and he will be remembered as one of football’s great characters,” he said.

“In the context of his overall career, his time at the Crows was brief but his impact is best described as significant given he helped build the Club from the ground up.”

In a statement, the Port Adelaide Football Club said Kerley was “always greatly respected as a fierce adversary as both a player and coach… the ultimate competitor who displayed skill and strength throughout the golden decades of South Australian football”.

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