The 2011 season is fast approaching for the teams of the Serbian RFL, with kick-off scheduled for the weekend of 19th-20th March. Competition is set to be tougher than ever this year, with a number of teams having strengthened their squads in the off-season, in the hope of toppling the mighty Dorćol.
This year will also prove an exciting challenge for the Serbia national team, with a calendar of eight internationals culminating in October when they take on Italy, Lebanon and Russia to vie for the final spot at the 2013 RL World Cup.
At Red Star it’s been a tough pre-season of conditioning and agility training under the guidance of head coach ‘Archie’.
The boys are fitter than they were – at least those who didn’t spend the winter stuffing their faces and sitting on their lardy arses (old habits from rugby union days die hard for some players) – but are now keen to take ball in hand and start skills and technical training.
The rifts of the 2010 season at club and national level have been settled and the upcoming RL Federation elections will see more members from more clubs given more powers to ensure the game grows evenly across the board and no single club dominates – at least off the field.
On the field, though, it’s likely to be a similar season to last, with all clubs progressing significantly but Dorćol RL maintaining its total and utter dominance. That said, hope springs eternal that Red Star can build a team with enough dedicated players (ready to go to the gym in their own time, study plays and calls, watch their diet and dream about playing) to one day topple the seemingly invincible champions.
Having grown up with rugby league, it’s no mystery to me why Dorćol dominate: a.) they are dedicated, fit and strong; b.) they are attuned to rugby league physicality and skills – as opposed to being union converts – and; c.) they are a brotherhood, a tribe, a neighbourhood.
Dorćol is the first community rugby league club in Serbia, the Balkans and maybe anywhere in the world beyond the working class north of England, the country towns of Queensland, the Sydney suburbs and the community clubs of the Papua New Guinean hinterland. Dorćol’s is a rugby league club built on its pride and sense of communal identity (in this case Dorćolci) that harks back to the roots of the game.
Nevertheless, at some point Dorćol RLFC will have to be beaten. My only hope is that it is because another club has attained comparable standards and not because Dorćol’s have dropped.
At national level, preparations for the first international of the year (versus Morocco in France next month) are in full swing. A virtual full squad is now training under the watchful eye of head coach Marko Janković, while Technical Director Lee Crooks is set to arrive later in February.
The boys are bound to be lacking match fitness, with the game coming almost on the eve of the season opener, but the Moroccans are sure to give them a good first hit-out on the road to the 2013 World Cup, to be staged in England & Wales.
Mark Pullen is Academy Director at Red Star Belgrade RLFC