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Wednesday, September 30 2020 @ 06:58 pm ACST

Slavonski Brod Tigers – Taking nothing for grant-ed in Croatia

Tomislav Vlaović, current president of the Slavonski Brod Tigers in Croatia, knows his club has benefitted from the AFL Europe grants program. “We received both grants: the Goal Post Grant (GPG) and Start-up Club Program (SCP).”

“Included in the Start-up Club Program we received the 6 footballs. We obtained the Richmond footy kits ourselves, thanks mainly to my dad, Andrija Vlaovic. AFL Europe made first contact with the Richmond Tigers before I came to club but never got past that.”

“The Goal Post Grant (GPG) included financial assistance in helping erect goal posts on our current playing ground. We applied for 4 x goal posts and 4 x behind posts. Our application was successfully approved and we are very grateful to AFL Europe in helping us to build the first AFL full size ground in Eastern Europe.”

“While we were successful in receiving both grants, I think that AFL Europe should help countries that have overall lower standards even more. It's not the same financing our club from Slavonski Brod then a team from England, Denmark or Sweden. We finance our clubs (including the other three Zagreb clubs) entirely by ourselves with no help whatsoever from governing bodies. The law in Croatia for amateur clubs is absolutely ridiculous and does not help us one bit.”

“The Slavonski Brod Tigers in their first season in the HLAN and CEAFL leagues registered two wins against the Styrian DownUderDogs and Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers. We lost two games by under six points while leading both games from start until the last quarter. It's a huge success for the club knowing that just 10 months ago 90% of our players didn't even know what [Australian]footy was, let alone how to play the game.”

“The most satisfying fact is that three of our players: Zvonimir Marinović, Mišel Lubina and Ivan Liović, and our main coach Luka Đukić as an assistant coach, were called up by the Croatian National Team, the Croatian Knights, and successfully attended the Euro Cup 2014 in London that finished last week. Don't have to say that they won the silver medal which is a huge achievement despite all handicaps we have in Croatia (no grounds/changing rooms, no funding as mentioned). The thing that most hurts me is that practically no-one in Croatia really cares about our achievements. Upon that, one of our players is to be transferred to a club from Canada.”

“The Croatian Cup 2014 will be taking place on October 19th in Slavonski Brod. We are in contention of actually winning the cup regardless of the capabilities of the Zagreb Hawks who are hot favourites. Next year we hope to increase our playing group and give it a real crack at winning the HLAN/CEAFL league. We also want to start a junior squad, because all of this is useless if we can't transfer our knowledge to the younger generations who can uphold our club in the future.”

“It's such a shame that the Croatian Knights couldn't attend the IC Cup 2014 in Melbourne. Again it has to do solely with the fact, once again, of finances. The Knights are the most successful team in Europe, winning in total six medals in Euro Cups. Despite this, we aren't able to show the AFL how talented we are.”

“As an example, our ruck Josip Habljak is easily at this moment in the top two best players in Europe. I know for a fact [and no disrespect here at all to Padraigh, in fact the opposite] that when he competed against Irishman Padraig Lucey in a mixed match of the European Legion and AIS Academy around Easter he completely smashed him to pieces. Padraig is now on the Geelong Cats list as a Catagory B rookie after finishing in the top 4 of the Fox Footy show The Recruit. I am afraid and saddened that Josip may never get an opportunity to show the AFL what he is capable of.”

The Slavonski Brod Tigers have come an enormous distance in a very short time, and are rightfully very proud of their efforts. Their rate of growth, both in terms of results and the players they are producing, is tremendous. They have had to struggle within their own country for funding, but the AFL Europe grants have certainly played their part.

We will watch the Tigers’ development over coming years with great interest.

Left: The lads from the Slavonski Brod Tigers in Croatia
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