Rugby league in Serbia


Rugby league in Serbia

Rugby league is a team sport that is played in Serbia, which now has over 250 registered players nationwide, approximately 150 of which are juniors. These numbers are rapidly increasing each year. Belgrade and Novi Sad are the two main bases for rugby league in Serbia, and these two cities produce most of the country's players.

History

Rugby league was introduced into Serbia in 1953, by then secretary of the Yugoslavian Sport Association, Dragan Maršićević. The first rugby league match in Serbia was held in Belgrade on Novermber 26, 1953, between French students and Selection Provence. The game was part of an attempt by the French Rugby XIII Federation to stimulate interest in the sport in Serbia.

The first rugby league club formed in Serbia was Partizan, on November 1, 1953, followed a couple of months later by Radnički. The two teams played their first match on April 26, 1954, with Partizan winning 21-11. In 1961, the Yugoslav National Team played their first and only match against a French amateur XIII, with the team going down 13-0.

Rugby league officially returned to Serbia in 2001, with the formation of the Serbian Rugby League Federation. Journalist Slaviša Milenković was voted in as president of the new federation. The inaugural Serbian Rugby League Championship was held on November 10, featuring teams from Belgrade, Morava, Novi Sad and Kruševac. Belgrade's Dorćol team won the event.

Dorćol is the 2006 champions.

The National Team

The National Team, which has represented Serbia and Montenegro, has competed in the Rugby League Mediterranean Cup in both 2003 and 2004 and had shown great improvement on the second occasion.

In 2005 they also participated in a three-way qualification tournament for the Rugby League European Nations Cup with the Holland and Georgia.

In 2006 Serbia participated in a four-way Rugby League World Cup qualifications/ENC B tournament with Russia, Georgia and Holland.

During July 2006, the Serbian U-19 national team participated in the U-19 European Nations Cup in Northern Catalonia. The Serbian boys were the only team outside Home nations or France on that tournament. However, they finished sixth by losing to Scotland only 14-16 in the last minutes of their 5th place play-off encounter in Barcares.

On August 12th 2006, Serbia won its first trophy. They won Czech Republic in Prague and their captain Radoslav Novaković lifted the Slavic Cup. The Serbian team played without Serbian origin players from UK or Australia.

On October 28th 2006, Serbia played Greece in Athens an historic match as it was the first Rugby League match on Greek soil. Greece was at an advantage in this match, as 10 out of their 17 players were Australian-based Greeks. Although Serbia lost the match 44-26, they played well against a team that included much more experienced players. The Serbian players said it was an honour to play against Salford City Reds player Michael Korkidas. However, this did not stop the Serbian players from being as physical as possible against Korkidas. This match was watched by 150 spectators in Athens.

Belgrade hosted the first U16 European Nations Cup from 27th June to 3rd July. Serbian boys made great upset by beating Russia 22-10 in the first match of their pool. In the second round, England (later winners of the Cup) won Serbia 46-0 and in 3rd place playoff Serbia lost to European Celts 22-20. However, the fourth place of Serbian U16s is the greatest success of national Rugby League in the history of the game in the country.

In 2007 Serbia is taking part in European Shield, newly-established European Rugby League competition. The first match, v Germany in Heidelberg, Serbia won 38-6 (tries by Pešić, Radovanović, Vukanović, Matejić, Jerković and Milanko and goals by Vukanović 6 and Matejić). The second match, v Czech Republic in Belgrade, Serbia won 56-16 (tries by Pešić 2, Mijušković, Radovanović 2, Jerković 2, Matejić, Brkić and Marko Milosavljević and goals by Brkić 5 and Novaković), and won the three-way competition with perfect record. Winning the match v Czech national team, Serbians defended Slavic Cup.

2008 sees Serbian national team challenges in the both U18 and open age competitions. U18s won 6th place in European Nations Cup (European Nations Shield runners-up) held in Prague and Beroun after losing to Ireland 12-66 in preliminaries, defeating European Celts 38-32 in Shield semifinals and losing to Scotland 42-38 after golden point in the second extra-time of the Shield final.As failed to qualify to 2008 Rugby League World Cup, along with Russia and Lebanon, Serbian national team will take part in Euro-Med Challenge during end of September and first week of October.

Notable achievements

Serbia has wasted no time producing great Rugby League players. Impressive youngsters Dalibor Vukanović and Soni Radovanović had stints with English National League Two side London Skolars in 2005, National League Three side Warrington Wizards and Russian 2nd runners-up Vereya in 2006. The boys were aged 19 and 17 respectively during their stint in England.

Zoran Pešić is arguably Serbia's best export so far. Zoran had a six week stint with National League Three side Warrington Wizards with above-mentioned Vukanović and Radovanović. He was also one of three nominees for the award of Best Emerging Nations Player at the Rugby League International Federation awards in Sydney on November 20th, 2006. This award was won by St George Illawarra Dragons' Wes Naiqama, who represented Fiji.

UK-born player of Serbian origin (and also Serbian RL international) Luka Simeunović lifted the English U-21 Senior Academy Cup as captain of the Halifax RLFC Academy team. He is one of the most successful Rugby League players with Serbian roots, alongside his older brother James, and he is a member of Halifax 27-men squad.

In March 2007, Serbian Rugby League national team have beaten the British Prison Service 44-24 and won Belgrade Trophy.

In 2007, some Serbian players have their sights set on breaking into the French Elite League, while others may be headed for Russia or England.

References

* [http://www.rugbyxiii.co.yu/ Serbian Rugby League]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9J3fRkDdPc/ Video of European tournament that Serbian football team are involved in]
* [http://www.dorcolrugby.co.yu/ Dorćol RL and RU web-site (in Serbian)]
* [http://ragbi.fpn.bg.ac.yu/ FPN XIII web-site (in Serbian)]


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