The Un-Coachable Character – By ‘Robbo’
My father once said to me, “just take the shackles off him & leave him alone, don’t bother trying to coach him because you’re wasting your time”. Never truer words spoken by a wise Scotsman, he knew from very early on that this very talented player called Deklan Gilmartin was always going to be an un-coachable character.
On his day for Hakoah, Deks was simply unplayable. I had simple but effective coaching points for him before each game, “Razzle Dekkers Just go out and Razzle”. Many opponents across the FNSW divisions, can humbly hold up their hands up & admit to Dekkers taking the piss out of them on several occasions during his successful playing career.
Deks had this uncanny knack of popping up with some long-range thunderbolt goals, many of them making the showreel of many FNSW awards ceremonies, an annual function that Deks had pencilled in his diary well in advanced. Spots were limited to 10 players/staff per club and Dekkers would always beg me to be one of the 10 selected, he thoroughly enjoyed Hakoah cleaning up the majority of the awards so when Deks and his entourage turned up to the FNSW awards ceremony each year, it was like a scene out of Oceans Eleven, with Dekkers and a few pre-drinks down his neck he was always confidently at the front of the pack on entrance, always looking dapper and handsome in his slim fit suit, which he inevitably borrowed from someone each time for the occasion, often it would be my tie & shoes he asked me to borrow, many times I would never see them again as he clearly stated to me that he accidently- purposely forgot to give them back each time, only for him to turn out in the same clobber at the next official Hakoah end of season function like Danny Ocean and his casted crew, Randall, Dalbroi, Walker, Jablonski, Owusu, Rae & Katz all known as the main stayers with Deks on each night out.
It was Deks character that attracted me and my dad to him, so much so that we employed him as a full time coach for many years at Mr Soccer, this is where he learnt how to become a responsible adult and take accountability for his actions, naturally along with Jabba and my dad, we mentored Deks each and every day, I genuinely thought the three of us were the best people for Dekkers to learn from. Personally mentoring Deklan was my pride and joy, I seen many traits in him that I possessed as a young man myself, his heart was the size of Phar Laps and he had the work ethic of a Trojan Warrior, he also had the ability to hold a proper conversation and was happy to listen and learn, all of this making him one of the most popular coaches with parents, players and teachers throughout the time he worked with us.
Dekkers changed from a boy into a man when I signed him for Hakoah, he was still young and naive and had bags of raw talent, he was easily the first player picked for 5-a-side games by his peers and secretly he was the first player written on my managers team sheet come the weekend games, his youthful enthusiasm matched with his unbelievable ball control made him very hard to be left out any of my team selections. Dekkers turned out to be one of my best signings throughout my time as head coach of Hakoah, he was the player and person that I
would use to educate each of the young boys at the club to look up at and aspire to be like him both on and off the field.
One youngster that Deklan had a massive impact on in his early playing days was my own son Alexander. Now a professional player for Manchester City Football Club, much of Alexanders education to becoming a professional, came from Deks taking quality time to coach him in particular his skills, ball manipulation and he coached Alexander the art of running with ball at pace, there was nobody better than Dekkers to have taught Alexander all of these technical skills and he was one of Alexander’s favourite coaches for the best part of 7 years. Most successful professionals say, between the age of 5-12 years old as a young player it’s most likely they soaked up large amounts of information from their coach, if this is true then Alexander would have drowned in the fountain of knowledge that Deklan gave him, the confidence from all the information and personal mentorship that Deklan gave him has built a lifetime bond between two talented footballers. Alexander has made special mention to Deks “I will do you proud one day” almost like a student telling their master that he will continue to fly the flag for both of them.
Deklan Gilmartin you were one hell of a man, from Manchester to Maroubra you made this your home, we were blessed to have watched you play with that ball, I will always remember you as a Cheeky Chappy who earned the respect of us all. As the final whistle sounds, I want you to know, you were very much loved and definitely became one of our own, so fly safe my boy and always remember you are never alone.
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Brendon Thorne