As we look forward to our 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner at Hyatt Place Essendon Fields on August 17, we took the opportunity to have a chat with some of the Essendon Royals greats.

Many of our club’s legends meet on a weekly basis at the Trieste Social Club in Essendon and we rounded up a whole bunch of them to talk all about their time at the Royals for a series of videos and features on to demonstrate what this club means to so many different people in our community.

From the club’s birth in 1959, right through to the renaissance of our senior team we talk to the people who helped shape the club to what it is today.

Tickets are available for purchase until August 4. Order them online here:

Next up, Martin Galea - our 2011 promotion-winning senior coach.

Martin arrived at the club as a parent with his son, Chris Galea, having enjoyed successful stints as a junior coach elsewhere and eventually with the Victorian junior state teams where he coached alongside former Socceroo Alan Davidson.

In the video and story below, Martin talks us through his journey from arriving at the club as a parent, to becoming a Director of Coaching and eventually the club’s senior coach.

Martin Galea arrived at the Essendon Royals in the late 2000s as a well-known junior coach having arrived following successful stints with Keilor Park Soccer Club, Brimbank Soccer Club and the Victoria state teams.

He arrived at Essendon as a parent with his son, Chris Galea, who was joining the under-12s.

By the time Martin left at the end of the 2012 season, he had served as a junior coach, Director of Coaching and promotion-winning senior coach.

“I’ve always felt that out of all the clubs I’ve coached at the club I have a sense of belonging with is Essendon Royals,” Martin said.

“It’s great to say I was a senior coach who coached the club to promotion.”

Many of the players of Martin’s promotion-winning side in 2011 would go on to play important roles in subsequent squads under his successor, Michael Curcija, who would lead the club all the way back to State League 1.

Players like Martin Strasser and Alistair Dunlop played under Martin during their time as juniors at the club and followed him into the senior ranks.

When Martin arrived at the club as a parent, the Royals senior team was playing in the Victorian Premier League, but for the most part, his focus remained on junior football, particular with his son playing his part in a promising group of under-12 footballers at the club.

“I left Brimbank Soccer Club after working in the junior state scene at the time, and I went across to do a pre-season at Fawkner,” he said.

“But that didn’t quite work out as I felt like I was being told how to coach by the parents.

“I had a good relationship with some of the guys at the Royals, particularly Anthony Boato, and I came across with my son Chris to play in the under-12 team and in the end, I had to take over as coach halfway through the season as the other coach left.

“We got that team qualified for the following season’s under-13 super league team. Back in those days, the super league only took the top four teams from each region from the previous year, so you had to qualify for it as an under-12 team.

“That was a good start to my association from the club and I guess it sort of went on from there.”

Before long, Martin moved into the role of Director of Coaching, which proved one of the highlights of his coaching career.

The role allowed him to continue to focus on his passion of coaching and developing junior players at the club, but also linked him in with the Royals senior set-up, which at the time was led by senior coach Gary Groenewald.

“I’ve always loved coaching teams and enjoy the battle every Saturday or Sunday, but in that instance, we had a Premier League team and I was close with the coach at the time, Gary Groenewald,” he said.

“We always used to talk in-depth about coaching and what happened that year is that we had a plethora of junior teams and a Premier League team. It was one of the times that I felt there was a real connection between seniors and juniors because Gary had a really deep understanding of junior coaching and football because he had kids involved in the junior scene at that time.”

The focus on bringing young players through to the seniors allowed Martin to reconnect with players he had coached at a state level, including current Socceroo Mathew Leckie, who he convinced to join the club’s under-21 set-up.

“I was able to work with players that I had coached at younger levels, and one of those was Mathew Leckie, who I coached as an under-11 and 12,” he said.

“I was able to reconnect with him at the under-17 and 18 levels when he played with the under-21s that season, who were coached by another good friend of mine Rick Mensink who was also a good coach.

“It was good to be involved in the scene and take sessions in the absence of the senior and reserves coaches it was also a great opportunity and managed to help a few of the junior teams as well.

“One of the best matches I coached was with an under-15 Super League team that got elevated because they had to make up the numbers due to a dropout.

“They went the whole season without a win and we had to go across to Melbourne Knights and we managed to get them their one and only win of the year which was a proud moment for me.

“I still cross paths with some of those boys who are now in their mid-to-late 20s and we talk fondly of that day.”

After his stint as Director of Coaching, Martin returned to a junior coaching role where he took over his son’s under-15 team.

“The season I was the director of coaching, we had a coach come in from Italy and he took over one of our Super League teams which happened to have my son Chris in it,” he said.

“That team had a lot of stars in the team, but they were a team of stars and not a champion team.

“The coach left the club and took all bar two or three players with him.

“So the next season we had this under-15 team which was still qualified for Super League due to the performance in under-14s, even though most of the players had left, and we managed to conjure up players who wanted to play for me and for the club.

“They were the backbone of what would become a very successful under-18 team.”

Including the likes of Dunlop, Strasser and eventual crucial senior players during the 2011 promotion-winning season like Terry Rowan, Sam Moon, Aydin Sirin, Johnny Scollo, Luke Mungherli and his own son, Chris, that team would enjoy a brilliant 2010 season, playing a year above themselves as under-18s.

“We got that under-15 team rocking and rolling, got them into the top four and the next year we played that same team up into a new under-18 competition which would otherwise have been a Super League equivalent,” he said.

“We managed that year to win everything. We won the league, we won the regionals and essentially were crowned the under-18 championship team in Victoria.

“That particular year was the year our seniors started again [in Provisional League 3 following the de-merger of the club from Bulleen at the end of 2008 for one season as Bulleen Royals] thanks to guys like Maurice Muccio who was the president at the time, and that presidency and that tenure by the leadership team allowed me to take over from Wayne Samuels.”

Taking over the senior reins with assistant and reserve coach Brian Milne, Martin was quick to promote his championship-winning team to the seniors, marrying them with established seniors from the club’s debut season in Provisional League 3 like captain Jayden Blanco, Stefan Mungherli and Riccardo Marchioli and bringing back club stalwarts David Minnala and Matthew Colina.

“My experience with the Royals has always been defined by having a president, in this case Maurice, who comes to me and asks me, ‘what can I do for you’, rather than coming to me and demanding what I need to do for them,” he said.

“That made it a lot easier to coach and have the freedom to not necessarily worry about the result but worry about the process, which in my opinion if the process is top-notch it will take care of the results anyway.”

“My motive at the time was about coaching in a way that I would catch players doing good things rather than just doing bad things. 

“There was a confidence that the players were able to embrace the positive nature of how they play and enabled them to see that if they brought their strengths to the table and worked on their weaknesses, all those strengths together meant we had a unified approach and a real quality about how we were playing

“Even though we were playing in the lower divisions it was still a great base to bring those boys through and achieve.

“We had some really good wins along the way and I vividly remember having an opposition coach comment on a forum that e wouldn’t have known me from a bar of soap but how well he thought the Royals were coached because there was an absolute distinct level of consistency about the team.

“We left it to the last round and we had to knock off the team that was leading the competition, Brunswick Zebras, and we managed to get ourselves promoted and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Martin vacated the role at the end of the 2012 season, handing the reins over to Curcija.

“I’m proud of what’s occurred post my coaching because I was happy with how the handover went with one of the most qualified people you’d find in football in Michael Curcija,” he said.

“He’s a brilliant person, he’s well invested and has a great name in the game.

“I was proud to hand the job over to him seamlessly, and I was proud he’d reach out for some thoughts on what had occurred before him and it didn’t take long before I was no longer relevant.

“But that’s a great thing because for me that means there was a seamless handover and the club has gone on to do very well.”

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