Warriors embrace 18th man Mark 'Mahi Man' Dekker

Author
David Skipwith, NZ Herald,
Section
League,
Publish Date
Saturday, 23 June 2018, 8:17AM
Mark Dekker in his role with the Warriors. (Photo / Greg Bowker)
Mark Dekker in his role with the Warriors. (Photo / Greg Bowker)

Not many people would get away with interrupting Warriors coach Stephen Kearney while he's delivering a team talk.

Fewer still would dare to continue to speak over the top of the notoriously stern former Kiwis back rower and World Cup winning coach.

But Mark Dekker – or 'Mark Carter' as he prefers to be known – is the exception to the rule, and the one person guaranteed to turn Kearney's frown upside down.

The 31-year-old with down syndrome began working with the Warriors football staff earlier this season and has been welcomed into the club's inner sanctum in his role as the team's official water runner.

The longtime Warriors supporter enjoys exclusive access to the players and is regularly included in their team huddles, joining in their breathing exercises and sharing a few motivational words in the lead-up to game day.

He picks and chooses his moments to speak and feels comfortable enough to interject – even if Kearney is delivering a fierce verbal spray to his players. 

Mark 'Mahi Man' Dekker shares a quiet moment at training with Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney. Photo / NZ Herald Greg Bowker.

Mark 'Mahi Man' Dekker shares a quiet moment at training with Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney. (Photo / Greg Bowker)

"That's the name that he associates with and Carter's Warriors number was 31," explained Swann.

"Every time he goes into the sheds he shows the boys number 31 and the name Mark Carter.

"It might not be the most popular choice but its Mark's choice and he likes the name as well."

Dekker is particularly close with Gavet, along with wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and ISP centre Junior Pauga, but has won the entire club over through his infectious sense of humour, positivity and work ethic.

Mark Dekker greets Warriors forward James Gavet. Photo / Greg Bowker

Mark Dekker greets Warriors forward James Gavet. (Photo / Greg Bowker)

"We work hard but when you do the mahi, you get the treats."

Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says Dekker's presence helps keep the players grounded and serves as a reminder of how the club can help people out in the community.

"It just puts things in perspective having him here," said Tuivasa-Sheck.

"He's a big supporter of the club and no matter what happens or goes on he always turns up with a smile on his face which keeps the boys happy."

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