“PUSHING UP DAISY…………”

Football clubs are a microcosm of life, they say……..The Rovers are no different.

In a passing parade of personalities over the years, I’ve witnessed, at close quarters, the convergence of cockies and cops, piss-pots and larrikins, stirrers and comedians, the extroverts and the painfully shy………..

I see a burly, wise-cracking farmer with a ripe turn of phrase become acquainted with a newly-arrived pastor, whom he instantaneously dubs ‘The Pope’. The pair strike up a friendship and become premiership comrades.

I’m there when a slightly-built, indigenous rover materialises at training and shows enough to quickly earn senior selection. It’s only when a club veteran seeks out the ‘newcomer’ to wish him all the best for his ‘debut’ that he remembers playing with him a dozen years earlier – under another name……….

A strongly-built forward steps off the train, mid-trip, en-route to Melbourne. Ah, Wangaratta, he recalls, this was the place an old team-mate was taking on a coaching job. He looks him up and says he’ll stick around and have a game. I play alongside him for a couple of months, and only when the recruit from the West has struggled for fitness and form, made no attempt to land a job and generally made a nuisance of himself, does he disappear into the wilderness……..

A lad from King Valley calls in to a local sports store and asks how he can go about signing up with the Rovers. He’s destined to become a Club legend, goes on to play 326 games and coaches the Hawks to a Grand Final……..

Every new arrival places his stamp on the character and culture of the Club – whether it be it a highly-touted recruit or an excited youngster who’s dreamt for years of one day wearing the Brown and Gold…………

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Dale Martin belongs to the latter category.

‘Daisy’s’ an unassuming type, who seems content with his lot in life. If he had one regret, it might be that the good Lord didn’t bless him with another four inches, to add to his vertically-challenged 5′ 9″.

That would have made him, indeed, a formidable customer.

As it is he is tough and feisty, battles like heck and, as all of his coaches would attest, ‘has his heart in the right place’.

His dad was a country football journeyman. Rick is Myrtleford-born and his job as a school-teacher saw him despatched around the state. He had a stint with Sebastopol, spent  time on St.Kilda’s list and represented Victorian Country whilst playing in the Ballarat League.

Following a move to Robinvale he wore the Sunraysia League jumper on about 15 occasions, then, on his return  to this area coached Benalla for two seasons.

Dale missed Rick’s career, but volunteers that: “they reckon he was a handy player.”

However, he would have a fair idea of the Martin footy philosophy.

Rick was appointed coach of the Rovers Thirds when ‘Daisy’ stepped up from College in 2008. His new team-mates included the now Sydney Swans forward Sam Reid, and Timmy Segrave, a youngster who had shown flashes of talent during the season.

It was the elusive Segrave, with five goals in a scintillating third quarter, who helped to turn the Grand Final around and guide the young Hawks to a 21-point win over Yarrawonga.

On the strength of that performance, ‘Timmy Terrific’ was rookie-listed by Greater Western Sydney later that season.

Harking back now, ten years on, Dale is the only player of that Premiership squad still  at the Findlay Oval.

He’s highly-regarded by his peers, who have, for the last three or four years elected him into the leadership-group. That’s more a tribute to the example he sets on and off the field than any excessive use of his vocal cords.

His coaches are well-used to this. When loading him up  with a list of pre-match instructions on how to handle his prospective ‘tag’ his reponse is often a nod of the head or, at most, ‘Yep’.

He’s a man of few words………

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‘Daisy’s’ an electrician by trade, but opines that there’s nothing more relaxing than venturing into the bush in his idle moments.

When he was a bit younger, Rick used to drop him off and he would spend the day tramping the hills and shooting deer.

On the odd occasion, he’s been helicoptered in to the densest scrub. But of more recent times he might head to Corryong or King Valley every Sunday, with a bow and arrow, either on his own, or with team-mate/ work-mate Matty Smith.

Bow and Arrow? “Yeah, it’s more of a challenge,” he says. ” It’s great. You feel really refreshed after you’ve spent a day walking. It helps get rid of the sore spots from footy.”

He laughs when I compare his method of rehab to the one we used to adopt – a brief Sunday morning warm-down, comprising a couple of laps and random ball-work, a few ales at the Club barrel, then out to the Vine Hotel to collect some ‘long-necks’, for an afternoon of ‘bonding’ at Yellow Creek…….

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At 24, going on 25, Dale’s a budding pastoralist. He owns 160-odd acres and also leases a bit of nearby dirt out at Taminick. He runs about 1,000 sheep.

How do you get the time to look after them ?   “Whenever I’ve got a spare moment, I’m out there,” he says. “I fit it in.”

I suggest to him that footy must get in the road sometimes. “Never. I love it.”

He had a meteoric rise in 2009. After spending the first half of the year in the Thirds, he showed out in a few Reserves games and was then given a taste of senior football.

The next season he alternated between the one’s and  two’s. From then on he’s been a fixture in the Senior line-up.

He had a few different roles early-on – back pocket, mid-field, wing – but his break-out season came in 2012 (Barry Hall’s year) when coach Mick Caruso assigned him a task as a ‘run-with’ player.

It worked. He found out he was getting more kicks as a tagger than he did when he ran free. The stars were leading him to the ball – and he gave them buggery.

Sometimes, though, he ran foul of the odd opponent who didn’t appreciate the close attention he was receiving.

It was rare that a game would finish without ‘Daisy’ carrying a war-wound of some sort. His trait of playing it hard and tight even earned him a trip to the Tribunal one year, when he was booked for head-butting Yarrawonga’s Luke Ednie.

Were you guilty, Dale, I ask. “I didn’t think so. He probably exaggerated it a touch.”

Whatever, it cost him a week on the sidelines and was a lesson learned.

His form has been consistent over the past few years, particularly in 2014, when he took out the Club’s Most Determined Player Award. The trophy seems tailor-made for a player with his qualities.

Niggling injuries have cost ‘Daisy’ a few games here and there, but it was a broken scaphoid bone in the wrist that cruelled a promising 2016  after just four games – just when he was eyeing off his 100th game.

He finally reaches the coveted milestone on Saturday, becoming the 83rd football member of the Hawks’ most prestigious club (his sister Ash, a top netballer, is also a Centurion).

There’ll be no-one prouder to join their ranks than the dogged Vice-Captain……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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