The Red Star Rugby League senior squad marked the end of the woeful 2011 season with a festive reception at Belgrade's Little Bay Restaurant on 20th December. All players were presented with certificates for their personal contributions to the past season, while special awards went to the players recognised as having excelled on the pitch during 2011.
A number of senior players and club pioneers were also presented with Hull Kingston Rovers replica shirts, which were a gift from the Hull-based Super League club to mark the new development partnership between these two red & white rugby league clubs.
The award for Young Player of the Year went to 18-year-old hooker/halfback Vlada Dedic, who is already a veritable Serbian veteran after seven years playing the sport.
"Vlada has shown leadership and the ability to direct play to a level well beyond his years, not to mention his bravery in defence and creativity in attack," said Red Star director Zeljko Delic.
Second-row/prop forward Ivica Djordjevic's progress was recognised with the Red Star RL Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Djordjevic, 26, has also contributed massively to the development of the sport and the club off the field, as secretary of the Serbian Student RFL and assistant coach of the Red Star junior team.
"Ivica has progressed massively both in terms of fitness and his ability to spot a gap, run a good line, call for the ball at the right time and know when to offload and when to take the tackle," said coach Mark Pullen.
Stalwart prop forward Zoran Pavlovic received the Red Star RL Most Consistent Player of the Year Award, "in recognition of his unwavering commitment both on and off the pitch, countless top-tackler performances and rock-like presence in the middle of the Red Star defence," said Delic.
Hooker Zoran ‘Pele' Pesic, Serbian rugby league's most capped representative player, edged out both Pavlovic and club captain Ivan ‘Chupa' Djordjevic to receive the 2011 Red Star RL Man of Steel Award - an award that needs no description.
"Those three players were the towering pillars of strength on the pitch all season, but Chupa played most of the season carrying a nasty knee injury and Pele really stood up and led the team from the front. You could say he was guilty of carrying the entire team on his back at some points, but such is the man," said coach Mark Pullen.
The Players' Player of the Year Award is undoubtedly the most coveted recognition, since it comes from fellow players, and the 2011 winner was Red Star's 19-year-old centre/loose-forward Milos ‘Chaki' Calic, who earned so many votes from his teammates that nobody else came even close... Perhaps next year he'll be inspired to injure fewer of them in training.
Both Milos Calic and Vlada Dedic, along with older brother Voja Dedic, 19, are set to travel to Hull Kingston Rovers in February as part of their pre-season training and in recognition of their progress. Whilst in the UK the boys will train with Hull KR and receive guidance on personal health, fitness and strength training, nutrition and lifestyle advice and even sports media training.