THE Surfers Paradise Demons will finish the QAFL Premier Division season with a new face at the helm following a parting of the ways with former coach Robert Martin.
By Terry Wilson
In a surprise development at Sir Bruce Small Park, club president Phil Pope said Martin has been replaced as caretaker coach by inexperienced Beau Zorko, older brother of Broadbeach and Queensland roving star Dayne.
And, in a further shock development, Martin’s assistants – long-time Demons stalwarts Jason Chantler and Wayne Davis – are also out of the Small Park door.
Into his second year with the Demons, Martin is understood to have lost the support of the playing group despite Pope saying that, at a meeting a month ago, Martin received the full backing of both players and officials
And, although Pope insisted Martin had not been sacked, it is believed the former coach heard of his pending departure via the Burleigh Bombers, where he was for so long part of the coaching panel.
“It was a mutual agreement that we couldn’t go forward under Rob,” said Pope.
When asked if he had heard of his pending departure as coach via the Burleigh Bombers – last Monday following the Surfers loss to Palm Beach-Currumbin – Martin declined to comment.
“Just go with what Phil told you,” he said, sticking to the mutual agreement line trotted out by the Demons.
After taking Surfers to within a whisker of last year’s finals at a club that was in dire financial straits, Martin started the 2011 Pineapple Hotel Cup series in style, with the Demons winning their first three games, the last one over premiers Noosa.
But 3-zip became 3-4 after the Dees lost four matches in a row to Sandgate, Western Magpies, Coolangatta and Palm Beach.
Zane Doubleday, coach at Martin’s former club Burleigh, said he would love to find a place for Bomber legend Martin on his coaching panel.
Martin had coached a Burleigh reserves premiership in 2001 and in 2009 he took the Beenleigh Buffaloes to the State Association Division Two flag before linking with Surfers.
But Martin, keen to stay involved in football in some capacity, is believed to be set to join a NEAFL club as an assistant.
New boy in the Surfers coaching seat, Zorko is heading into his first job at seniors level. He was Labrador reserves coach and assistant to Jarrod Field in 2009.
He holds levels one and two coaching certificates.
Zorko admitted he felt sorry for Martin, Davis and Chantler, but is looking forward to getting the Demons – running as an amateur operation at present – back to winning ways
“It will be a challenge obviously to regain our success, but it will also be a challenge for the players, not only as individuals but also as a group,” he said.
“I feel for Rob because he did a fantastic job getting games into the younger players last year.
“Obviously there has been some unrest at the club, but we need to draw a line in the sand and move on.”
Asked about the departures of Chantler and Davis, Zorko said: “I wanted my own people in support roles.
“I certainly have nothing against them as people or their coaching abilities.
“We need a fresh start and a clean slate. It’s more about the direction I want to take as caretaker coach.”
The Demons take on Gold Coast rivals Burleigh in a round-nine clash on Saturday.
Doubleday said when he heard the news he thought it was a gee-up by Martin and his Demons trying some mind games in the lead-up to the local derby.