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By Andrew Paloczi
Kingsley Ellis deserves a place in the SFNL Hall of Fame through his endeavours as a player and coach in the Federal Football League, where he won a league Best and Fairest in his first season.
But his efforts on the Board of the then SFL enabled him to make what was arguably a more significant contribution to the league.
He started as Executive Manager in 2001, bringing with him a wealth of business experience and knowledge from his part in establishing and running an Australian Rules competition in Canada.
Ellis continued as Executive Manager until 2004. He then worked elsewhere, before returning to the SFL as Commercial Manager in 2007.
Ellis found the SFL in a precarious financial situation when he joined the Board.
The situation was sufficiently dire that the league was unable to pay him for three months.
After his first year there, the SFL recorded a tidy profit, having suffered a heavy loss the previous year.
People gravitate to Ellis with his warm and engaging manner, and he is spoken of with fondness both as a person and for his contribution to football and particularly to the SFNL and its forerunners.
Stephen Barnes, himself a member of the SFNL Hall of Fame, speaks with passion and admiration about Ellis.
“He had an immediate impact on the Federal League. He was the consummate professional and a wonderful leader,” Barnes recalled.
Barnes has fond memories of being a young footballer playing against Ellis.
“I was amazed that he even knew me, because he was such a big name,” he said.
Barnes also notes Ellis’ dry sense of humour.
Ellis recently reflected on his brief VFL career with Fitzroy, where he played seven senior games in 1966.
“I really loved the idea that I could play at that level,” Ellis said.
He returned to his old club, Blackburn before finding his way to Northcote in the VFA, where he won a club Best and Fairest.
After a couple of seasons there, Ellis’ association with the Federal Football League began when he took on the challenge of becoming playing coach at Glenhuntly Football Club.
Ellis arrived at the club when it was low on funds and had lost many of its experienced players as a result, having previously been a powerhouse of the competition.
His playing ability proved crucial during the 1970 season, and he won the J. W. Allnutt Trophy as the Federal League’s best and fairest player that year, along with steering the club to eight wins when only two had been forecast.
As far as coaching went in the early days at Glenhuntly, Ellis focused on the basics.
He worked on the players’ skills, but also on improving their confidence, and drew on his past experience.
“I think it was that ability to take your coaching methods and the training methods from the VFL and bring them to Glenhuntly,” Ellis said.
He also reflects on the fact he was lucky to have a great footy upbringing, including being taken into the North Melbourne rooms as a youngster by his dad who played for the Kangaroos.
Ellis says his father, Ted, who also won a Best and Fairest at Footscray, was a big influence on him.
Another influence was Peter O’Donohue, the former Hawthorn coach, who was coaching at Northcote during Ellis’ time there.
Fellow ex-Hawk, Sted Hay also helped Ellis improve his football knowledge.
Ellis speaks of his enthusiasm to learn from others and how it played a part in coaching an inexperienced side when he was aged just 23.
“All of these people keep educating you. And you just absorb what they give to you and take it on board,” Ellis said.
One of the young players Ellis coached was Garry Cranny, who is now SFNL Vice Chairman.
Ellis spent five seasons with Glenhuntly, before moving to another Federal League club, Bentleigh, where he played and coached.
He finished his playing days at Cheltenham, where he spent just a couple of seasons. The last of those was 1979, when his wish to spend the season in the reserves was granted.
Ellis loved his time at the club and found that final season one of his most enjoyable.
Through his employment with the Kiwi shoe polish company, he ventured to Canada with his family in 1980, remaining there for twenty years.
The SFNL is grateful he returned to write another chapter in his connection with our league, which is undoubtedly better for his involvement.
Congratulations Kingsley Ellis on your place in the SFNL Hall of Fame.