There are plenty of AFL coaches and players who’ve looked to other sporting codes to gain an edge on game-day. But it’s not often you see an AFL player seeking advice from someone involved in the tennis world – which is exactly what Port Adelaide’s Brad Ebert has done.
The Power vice-captain has revealed he got in touch with former tennis superstar Ande Agassi through his former coach Darren Cahill.
Featured on Channel Seven’s Saturday Night Footy coverage, Ebert said he had the chance to pick the brain of the former tennis world number one during a phone call last year.
“I gave him a call-up one morning and just sat there for an hour or so having a chat,” Ebert said.
“He was brilliant in just the way he talked about his preparation, the way he went into games and the way he sees professional sport.
“I was a little bit nervous, to be honest. When you get the chance to speak to a legend of a sport like that it’s pretty nerve wracking, so the first couple of questions were a bit tense.”
The 25-year-old has seen improvements in his game since touching base with the four-time Australian Open champion.
He’s begun 2015 in career-best form, collecting 34 disposals in the Round 1 loss to Fremantle, gathering 22 touches and kicking three goals against North Melbourne in Round 3, and averaging 27 possessions across the first four games of the season.
Cahill, who orchestrated the meeting, has also been providing the Port Adelaide workhorse with some advice of his own.
Cahill is the son of legendary South Australian football figure and inaugural Port Adelaide coach John Cahill. Through his family’s connection with the Eberts – another famous name in South Australian football – he has become a mentor to Brad.
Ebert tries to catch up with the man they call ‘Killer’ as often as possible.
“Brad went out and got about 40 touches the next week [after they spoke] and Andre is now asking how the young fella is doing every time he plays” – Darren Cahill
“I see him as a bit of a mentor and have bounced some ideas off him over the last year about professionalism and what players he’s worked with. He’s worked with some high-profile players in tennis.”
For those who don’t know, the Agassi story is one of the more remarkable tales in sporting history.
After his retirement from world tennis, the BBC described him as “perhaps the biggest worldwide star in the sport’s history”, but his story is about much more than immense talent.
The back-end of Agassi’s career was flooded with debilitating back and leg injuries that required constant treatment to continue competing.
While winning eight Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal, Agassi has also seen the extreme lows of the sport. By the end of 1997, he had slipped from world number one to 141, prompting many to believe he may never return to his best. But through an intense conditioning program, he eventually became the best in the world once more.
Cahill helped guide Agassi back to becoming the oldest world number one in tennis history by the early to mid-2000s.
Since Cahill put Ebert in touch with Agassi, the American has kept tabs on the Port Adelaide midfielder.
“Brad went out and got about 40 touches the next week [after they spoke],” Cahill said.
“Andre is now asking how the young fella is doing every time he plays. It’s nice they’ve got that little connection.”