Almanac People: Hart Gives his Charges a Football Lesson

By Peter Argent

Darel Hart 2016 - Under 16s coach

Darel Hart 2016 – Under 16s coach

A gruff character, it was an inspired choice by Brenton Phillips to give Darel Hart the state under 16s coaching job in 2010.


Personally, I first saw Hart back at the Ponderosa during the pre-season of 1980.


I was on the track when he was told by an underage coach he was too slow to play league football.

Darel Hart - Dogs

Darel Hart – Central Districts Dogs

He took off his state jumper and proceeded to win each sprint and the 400-metre runs for the remainder of the evening.


While I struggled to get a game in the juniors, Hart already played predominately reserves football and made his SANFL league debut as a 16-year-old that year against Port Adelaide at Alberton Oval.


At this age had already played SACA district A grade cricketer in a powerful Salisbury side as a hard hitting opening bat.


Also a talented baseballer and motocross rider in his youth, Hart, or ‘Stats’ as he was nicknamed because of his penchant to count the touches he collected, would also captain a SA state under 19s side in cricket.


Hart is stubborn, defiant, driven and talented….but importantly he made the most of his attributes.


Long-time friend and team mate in that debut game, Greg “Meggsy” Edwards said Hart is one of the most driven footballers he played alongside of.

“I reckon his opponent was Ivan Eckermann in that initial match,” Edwards explained.


“It was a tough introduction, but Darel wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


“He is a very private person and not a lot of people know him well.


“He was always the best in his age group in whatever he did growing up and was always going to be a champion.”

1988 - Darel Hart - North Adelaide - Jamie Thomas CDFC

1988 – Darel Hart – North Adelaide – Jamie Thomas CDFC

In 1984 he moved up Main North road to Prospect and the Roosters.


There is a legendary story at Prospect that Hart heard a comment about being a little overweight, so he decided to run home following each pre-season training session.


Fast forward to opening round of the 2016 Australian Under 16s National Football Championships on June 25.


Looking out of the game last Saturday at Football Park during the three quarter time break Hart’s inspirational move to put small forward Izak Rankine one out in the forward 50, was inspired by his former premiership coach at North Adelaide (and Fitzroy coach for half its final year) Mick Nunan.

1987 - Darel Hart - North Adelaide

1987 – Darel Hart – North Adelaide

When quizzed by why he decided to “roll the dice” Hart revealed the original idea came from the time he was coached by Nunan at the SANFL Roosters.


“We needed to do something,” Hart mused.


“When I was playing at North, Mick would throw ‘D’ (Darren) Jarman one out in the forward 50 in an effort to stretch his direct opponent.


“Izak is a special talent, who has breathtaking speed and we thought he’d be dangerous one out.”


SA turned a 19-point three quarter time deficit, into a brilliant seven point win, following a six-goal-to-two last term.


Being fortunate to listen to Hart both at three quarter time and after the game, I was given a special insight into the lessons Hart is giving the elite young talents in SA program.


Hart got his squad together after the game before they enjoyed the applause of the crowd.


The message he gave the players was “football gold”.


He singled out the special performance of ruckman Ruben Flinn in the last quarter, calling it “not pretty at times, but an AFL type effort” and also had a message of each of the guys that underperformed on this big stage.


Looking certain players in the eye, he explained that he had played at the same venue in front 50,000 spectators and was a member of a team that kicked one goal in a Grand Final.


“I wanted to crawl into a hole,” Hart said.


“But you’ve got to learn from it and back up.”

Two years later Hart kicked seven goals and won the Jack Oatey Medal in the 1991 SANFL Grand Final.



  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Good to see one of the leading lights of the CDFA kicking on.

    Wasn’t too popular at Goodman Rd after he left, but I never knew the full story.

    Geez that white Centrals jumper was groundbreaking.

    Thanks Peter.

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