Bob pictured here on the left with Wayne Jackson past blacks player and ex AFL CEO on the right
Nick name “The Legend”
“Bob” is the club legend and this is written in our constitution
Played 236 Games
Goals kicked 73
- 1975 Best Team Man A8 White
- 1977 Best and fairest A7 White
- 1982 Most Dedicated Amateur
- 1983 Club Letters
- 1989 Outstanding Service
- Committee 1979 (?) to 1989
- Coached 1978 (A5 reserves), 1987 (A10)
Premiership; 1980 A8 “Carey’s Killers” as a player
Bob Neil is an enigma. Much is known about him, but few could tell you what he looks like, or how to find him. Many have tried and failed – his fans have carried banners emblazoned with his name to major sporting events in Australia and around the world, from Adelaide Oval to the MCG, from Lord’s to Trinidad.
They have paged him in the hopes of drawing him out into the open, just so they can catch a glimpse of their legendary hero. “Dr Bob Neil… paging Dr Bob Neil” – it’s a familiar sound heard over the loudspeakers of many a sporting venue. But no one ever answers the call.
The legend of Bob Neil first grew to prominence among members of the Adelaide Uni Football Club. Bob Neil started as a player with the Blacks in the 1970s, later becoming a coach and committee member. His good deeds were known far and wide-appearing out of nowhere to help tap a beer keg at a party (a difficult task when there’s no experienced bar staff around) or filling in for a player or an umpire at short notice.
But it was during the SAAFL 1986 Division A1 Grand Final that his name first achieved legend status, when a chant of “Bob Neil, Bob Neil”, was used to spur the Blacks on to victory. Soon his name began appearing all over Adelaide-in graffiti, on banners, and over the loudspeakers at Adelaide Oval. When a Bob Neil banner was spotted at an Aussie Rules match at The Oval, London, he had ceased being a cult figure and had transformed into a phenomenon. His name even appeared on the Berlin Wall just before it was demolished in 1990.
These days Bob Neil is known as the only man in Adelaide who gets away with wearing grey shorts during the footy season (so that he doesn’t need to change between black for home games, or white for away). He bears the number 130 on his football jersey used to teach his opponents skills in mathematics as well as football.
Indeed, there’s more to the man than just football. A brilliant mathematician, Bob Neil reportedly works for the Defence Department out of a secret bunker north of Adelaide, protecting Australia from invasion by solving simultaneous mathematical equations. His own equations on the meaning of life, death and beer have revolutionised both mathematical and philosophical thinking.
Bob Neil is a hero to the common man. A member of the Greys (a select group of former Blacks players who know the real Bob Neil and who help protect his true identity from being exposed), Dr Fred Bloch is to Bob Neil what Commissioner Gordon is to Batman. In the most extreme occasions-like if the umpire hasn’t turned up at a footy match and we need someone to fill in. Bob might have some important fourteenth line of an equation to solve, some huge problem of Australia’s defence, but we’ll ring him and say ‘We haven’t got an umpire!” and then he just drops everything. If a first-year player has forgotten his jersey, that’s a classic one. Then Bob will come and lend him the #130.
We get calls from people all the time to hand over his phone number so they can ring Bob in his bunker out there in Salisbury, but we can’t do that. Bob’s a very busy man. If he was upfront and made himself available it might get unbearable, so he’s gotta take a back seat and be a very secretive figure. Otherwise the demand on his time would be enormous. So for that reason I’m afraid Bob will have to remain a mystery.”
A portrait of Bob Neil was entered in the 2002 Archibald Prize by artist Rebecca Hunt. Her inspiration to paint him came from the fact that nobody had seen him before.
ABC Radio listener poll nominated Bob Neil as a “living legend” in 2014. He dominated the Commonwealth Games baton relay in 2018 through the streets of Adelaide.
Bob has the values that make him a legend and the world wide Blacks culture great. He seeks no recognition for being the quiet achiever. He embraces diversity and seeks the simple pleasure of mateship.