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GWS links to Giants in Croatia

  • Wednesday, April 04 2012 @ 04:35 pm ACST
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In the bustling southern suburbs of Zagreb, just south of the Sava river, the Zaprudje Australian rules football club has recently announced a sister club arrangement with AFL newcomers GWS Giants and taken on the name of Zaprudje Giants. The club was formed in the middle of 2011 by some former and current Croatian Knights, and is the first neighbourhood team in Zagreb, a formula which could be replicated in future years.

Most locals in Zagreb are quite loyal to their neighbourhoods or "kvarts" in a manner described by locals as being akin to local gangs, however without any serious violence. The formation of the Zaprudje Giants and their recent partner-club arrangement with GWS is considered to be a very positive step in the consolidation of Australian rules football in Zagreb and Croatia as a whole.

Thanks to Tony Grguric from the CAAF for this story.

The GWS Giants were introduced to the Croatian Association of Australian Football (CAAF) by current AFL Europe Manager Ben McCormack and the initial stages of a partnership was entered into by the current AFL Europe Commissioner Kolja Koracak while he was also holding his previous role of CAAF President.

Apart from the new sister club relationship between the GWS Giants and the Zaprudje Giants, other elements of the partnership effectively aid the CAAF with coaching and training facilities for the 2014 International Cup tournament, to assisting and consulting each other in regards to gaining sponsorship or international members. Although much of the direct work might lie some years ahead, the immediate effect was the kind donation of GWS Giants jerseys to the local Zaprudje australian rules football team. Both parties are quite excited by what can now come to fruition.

GWS Academy Manager, Lachlan Buszard stated that Croatia is a well-known top tourist destination, and obviously it would be great for them to get a solid australian rules football league and outfit running. “During my initial discussions with Kolja Koracak whilst in Dubrovnik a year ago, I sensed that the Aussie Rules lads in Croatia, which are effectively 99.9% locals, have taken up the sport with tremendous enthusiasm and this has shown in their performances in the annual EuroCup competition, where they have only ever finished in the top 3. This excites me as I only wonder what the limit is with some further work and dedication. It also gives the GWS Giants an opportunity to involve itself with such enthusiastic and passionate people almost from the beginning.”

Igor Svoboda, president of the Zaprudje Giants stated, “We are very thankful to the Australian Embassy in Zagreb for their assistance, and very grateful to the GWS Giants for the jerseys they have sent us. We are excited by the tie up with the GWS Giants as we sometimes feel like we are the forgotten people. Even though Croatia has become a top worldwide tourist destination, the average wage in the country is about 800 euros per month and the official unemployment rate is something like 20%, perhaps realistically being closer to 40%."

"It is a real struggle for most locals to create much for themselves other than the basic needs for living. That is why people here do have a very proud, stubborn and tough mentality. We see that this is somewhat perfect for the game of australian rules football, and think that if we can get better organised, and work a little harder on a consistent basis, perhaps somewhere in the near future one of our local boys will be playing in the big league (AFL) with the Giants over in Australia. We do not see this as just a pipedream but as a potential reality, because one of our players recently managed to qualify for the European representative team having started playing the game barely a few months ago.”