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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 September 2014
SPORT 30 SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2014 At just 15, Stavros Gelekis was at the top of his game. He was training like a profes- sional, using his free time to practise tricks and basically called the West Adelaide Hel- las pitch his second home. His goal was to make it into the under 19s and he was al- ready training in the seniors squad. "Before I went into the under 19s I decided to do a really intense pre-season," Stavros tells Neos Kosmos. "All through my junior ca- reer I was really unfit, I was doing all this extra training and my fitness wasn't im- proving." It seemed like an innocent problem, maybe he wasn't training the right way? Sadly the reality was much more terrifying and debili- tating. "I had a training session with West Adelaide and I re- member running with the ball and then someone had tackled me. When I got up I started feeling really dizzy and I just collapsed," Stav- ros tells Neos Kosmos. Tak- ing a free kick, he soon re- alised his sight becoming blurry and that he was fall- ing to the ground. Amaz- ingly he remembers feeling embarrassed, thinking his fall would unnecessarily cause a commotion. He had stopped breathing, and lay unconscious for min- utes before his trainer Ross Scolari was able to resusci- tate him. Stavros is here to- day thanks to the quick think- ing of Mr Scolari and some unimaginably useful CPR lessons. "The next thing I knew I woke up and there was the ambulance and I was being resuscitated by the trainer." That wasn't the worst of it. Stavros endured what he calls the "longest six months of his life" after that. Test after test, being forced away from the club he loved, Stavros had to stomach more than a diagnosis. He had to overcome a career changing prospect. At the age of 15, Stavros was diagnosed with right ventric- ular tachycardia, an illness that stopped him right in his tracks. "It's a build up of scar tissue in my right ventricle which really short circuits the oxygen from getting from my heart to my lung," he says. There is no cure, and the best case scenario for sufferers is that it doesn't progress. Stavros has had multi- ple operations to fight it, but the diagnosis put an end to his playing career. He tried to get back on the pitch, trained hard once again, but just two matches into the sea- son in the under 17s, he blacked out again. His life at the club changed. From a promising up and comer, he became a spectator. "I used to go watch the first team play every Satur- day and as much as I used to love watching them play it made me a little bit jeal- ous," he says. He knew his heart and soul was at the club, and want- ed to give back any way he could. He plucked up the cour- age to ask his former coach and now club chairman Alex Alexandrou if he could con- tribute. Mr Alexandrou didn't even have to think about it. "Without doubt Stavros was the best player I have ever coached," he said on West Adelaide's Facebook. Finding a spot for him was easy. For the past two years, Stavros, now 22, has been the coach of the West Adelaide Hellas under 14s. Mr Alexandrou has never had to think twice about his appointment. Stavros has coached the team promotion twice, and just this year helped ferry the team to their first ever championship win. A modest man, he credits his talented group of teen- agers as the real heroes of the season. His philosophy is simple; coach in a way that will give the kids the same love he de- veloped for the club. "I know a lot of teams out there that are a lot about win- ning, and sometimes the kids don't quite enjoy it and they don't appreciate the game and they quit at a young age," he says. "I just tell the kids to enjoy themselves." Next week, the club will pre- sent Stavros and his group of budding professionals with their championship cup. A dream come true for Stav- ros. e h Back from the dead Stavros Gelekis was looking forward to becoming a key player in the first team of West Adelaide Hellas until he fell to the pitch unconscious. Now 22, he is alive and kicking and has coached the under 14s to a championship win HELEN VELISSARIS hich b d lb hir Al Strh h The NRL has presented fans with two mouth-watering preliminary final matches this week. Last night's game between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters was supposed to be the season decider. The two best teams of 2014 going for broke on the first Sunday in October. But someone forgot to pencil in a Penrith upset into that script, which invari- ably turned the story line on its head. On the other hand, to- night's game features an in- spired and balanced Penrith, which earned a week off after knocking the Roosters off by one point in the qualifying finals, and a Canterbury side which has rejuvenated itself in the last two weeks, after some ordinary form toward the end of the regular season. The Canterbury Bulldogs are fancied in tonight's game, but Fairfax journal- ist Michael Carayannis told Neos Kosmos that the well- coached Penrith Panthers cannot be written off. "I think everyone, unless you're a mad Panthers fan, has been writing Penrith off for the last month and they just keep on turning up and performing. They're a really good side in the sense that they're a team, there's not too many flashes of individual brilliance. If someone's a lit- tle bit off in that side they're going to struggle, they don't rely heavily on anyone," Carayannis said. "There is a lot of hype around [five-eighth] Jamie Soward, because he's their only playmaker, considering all the guys that are injured, so he's probably got the most pressure on him. But there's not that pressure on Soward to come up and make those big plays because he's got other players who can come up and do that for him." Carayannis said that the team's balance is pivotal to its success tonight and Can- terbury too was difficult to gauge. "After they [Canterbury] walked from the field in round 26 against the Titans you thought they were gone for all money. They were ter- rible that day and they re- ally squandered a lead and they had to go play Mel- bourne in Melbourne. I hon- estly thought it'd be a regu- lation win for the Storm, but they've showed that anything can happen and to their credit they performed really well." For Canterbury to win, Carayannis said that the game will come down to the likes of prop James Graham, who's arguably the in form player of the competition, and the most important Bull- dog out there. For Penrith it was impossible to pinpoint one feature stand-out, rather it will be a case of maintain- ing the side's steady equilib- rium. "Obviously Jamie Soward's their man. If he's kicking's on and he controls the game and he keeps his nerves about him, he'll have a decisive say about how the game plays out." Carayannis picked the Bull- dogs by six. Panther Jamie Soward could prove the difference tomorrow night. PHOTO: AAP/CHARLES KNIGHT. Preliminary final for the ages The Bunnies and the Roosters headline this week’s grand final contenders JOHN PYRROS s otion twice, and A heart condition stopped his playing career, but Stavros’ love for the club made him stay. Stavros Gelekis says his goal as a coach is to make sure the kids have fun. Stavros has seen his under 14s promoted and take home the championship in just two years. Stavros is now a member of the elite coaching team at West Adelaide Hellas.
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