Photos courtesy Sharon Jones Photography
Story by Mark Jonas
When you think about who have been some of the greatest Full Backs to grace the sporting field in Australia who have just got better with age and just can’t imaging retiring, who comes to mind to you? For me it is Dustin Fletcher (AFL), Billy Slater (NRL) and then there is our own and the one and only, Heath “Heata” Decker!!
This Saturday, along with good mate Tim Jones playing his 100th, Heath, at the tender age of 35, will take to the mighty Quambee Reserve to play his 150th Senior Game at North Ringwood and with only 3 months to go to his 36th Birthday, this is an amazing effort considering the position he plays along with playing week in, week out on some of the best Full forwards playing local football in Victoria and to be honest, still beating them considering he is up to 10 years their senior and usually much shorter than them.
Before we get to what Heath has achieved at our club, let’s go back (way back) to see how North landed this very talented athlete.
Heath started his Senior football at Warrandyte where he played for 3 years between 2002-2004, but in 2005 he turned his back on Aussie Rules to take up another love of his, American Football or Gridiron to us Aussies. Wanting to get the best out of himself in this sport he knew there was only one thing to do and what was that l hear you ask?…. well he moved to the USA and played in the Arena Football League, which l believe is a couple of steps down from the NFL and played one year with Conquest in 2008 and the Bossier-Shrevepot Battlewings in 2009 (Hope l got close to getting this right mate!)
On his return to Australia, Heath joined the Monash Warriors Gridiron team but as any true athlete does he decided that this punishing game on the body was just not quite enough so he also returned to Aussie Rules at the same time and lucky enough for us Heath, big brother Lincoln and the rest of the massive clan of Deckers joined their cousin Scott “Dooley” Lindsay down at North Ringwood and the rest is history.
Even though Heath played 17 games in his first year at the club (2010), Heath did not make his Senior debut till round 15 against Chirnside Park which we won 17.22.124 to 8.6.54. For the record books Heata kicked 2 goals in 2010 which still stand today as his only 2 goals in 149 games, but to be fair he has been stuck in the 10 metre white box at the opposite end of the ground since he kicked his last goal on the 14/8/2010, but based on the fact we kicked 21.20.146 to Whitehorse Pioneers 4.4.28, Moyley may have given everyone a turn at Full Forward that day!
It soon became evident that Heath had found his calling as an elite Full Back, and after 17 Senior games in 2011 and along with his brother Lincoln becoming a very handy back up ruckman to Tucky we knew we had something special with these two boys and given the fact they both had bodies of Greek Adonises we also knew we had at least two contestants for the Next “Man O Man” night!
After becoming a Premiership player in 2012, there was a massive sigh of relief from all Divi 3 full forwards but how would Heath go in Divi 2 against even better full forwards? Answer to the question, not a problem!. Heath just continued to fine tune his art and just got better leaving a trail of goalless forwards in his wake, no more than one of Heath’s biggest opponent in Divi 2 and leading goal kicker Brendan Weinert. These two boys had some brilliants tussles especially in 2014 when they came across each 4 times including the Second Semi and the Grand Final.
Even though Heath had made a name for himself by now within the EFL, he eventually put the whole club on the world map!
It was the week leading up to our Second Semi against Croydon that Heata had to break the news to Moyley that his Gridiron team had made the Vic Bowl Gridiron Championships (Grand Final) and that it was to be played at 6pm on the Saturday night only one hour after the completion of our Semi against Croydon and the main problem was it was being held in Bendigo and that he most likely would not be able to play the Croydon game as he was going to miss the Championship. As you can imagine this left Moyley with a huge problem.
Enter stage left, Club President Maurie Larsen who came up with a plan with Brett Moyley and Captain Max Melzer and what a plan it was.
Maurie had a good mate who had his own helicopter (but let’s face it, who doesn’t have a mate with a helicopter!)… anyway it just so happened Maurie’s mate was free, his helicopter was free and so was the best full back in the comp to play the semi final.
Kept as a big secret to very few, Heata took to the field at 2.10pm and lined up on Brendan. At ¾ time, the Saints up by 10 goals and Weinert dejected with only 1 goal against his name, Heath ran from the field and into a waiting helicopter just down the road at a near by Primary School with Gridiron bag and Mum in toe. Just as the players took to the field for the last quarter, a blue helicopter flew over the ground with one “Heataaaaa” given a big wave to the sea of red polos below him as by now the word had spread throughout the crowd to what was happening.
40 minutes later, Heath arrived in Bendigo and with only minutes to start time, he got changed on the sideline and took to the field and within minutes of the siren sounding he took a long ball down the side for a “TOUCH DOWN!!” In Heath’s own words “I felt like a Rock Star!”
Within days news of what had happened and papers and radio stations all around Victoria contacting Heath for interviews including the Hearld Sun, 3AW and the ABC, but it didn’t stop there and eventually media outlets in the USA started reporting this incredible story of what a local Melbourne Football Club was prepared to do to make sure one of their stars could play two finals in one day and for the record, Heath won both matches and two weeks later became a two time Premiership Player within 2 weeks.
Even though most people call him “Heata” or “Heataaaaaaa” depending on how much they have had to drink, it wasn’t until media oulets in Australia and America started to report this story, that Heath gave himself his own nick name “PRIME TIME” !!
What makes this story even more unbelievable is that Heath played both these matches and the EFL Grand Final two weeks later with a broken bone in his left arm, which also happens to be his main punching arm! (that’s the ball l mean, not his opponents)
Semi: North Ringwood 17.15.117 def Croydon 7.8.50
Vic Bowl Grad Final: Monash Warrior def the Geelong Buccaneers by 30 points.
Since NRFC have been in Division 1 (2015-present), Heath has just continued his status as one of the most feared full backs in the comp and he just appears to be getting better as he gets older and as it stands at present Heata could easily join a very elite club at North Ringwood and become our newest 200 game player since Matty Castles.
Below is a full wrap up of Heath “Heata” Decker’s achievements in his 149 appearances for the mighty Saints.
Named in the Best Game day: 29 Times
2010: Senior debut
2012: Division 3 Premiership Player
2013: Awarded NRFC Club Award – The “Wayne Bradshaw” Perpetual Trophey, for Most Determined
2014: Division 2 Premiership Player
2014: Named Full Back in the EFL Division 2 “Team of the Year”
2017: Named Full Back in the “NRFC Team of the Decade 2007-2016”
Pretty sure Heath is also a two time Winner of Payno’s “Man O Man” nights!!
Heath has also been a regular member of the Senior Leadership Group.
Heath, you are a true Champion of our Club and from all your mates at North Ringwood, we wish you all the best for Saturday and that yourself and Tim can be carried from the field with a big win on this big day for you both.