Belushi’s Presents: Player Spotlight – Josip Habljak

Each week, AFL Europe in combination with Belushi’s will take a look at one of our star players competing in fixtures across the continent in Player Spotlight. 

Croatian Josip Habljak has always been a keen sportsman and interested in fitness.

Growing up in Zagreb, Josip had a real eye for the game of basketball and played this up until the age of 22.

Throughout his 20’s Josip was a keen gym goer, but realised he missed playing sport with others and being around mates.

Upon seeing a flyer for an AFL training session, Josip found exactly what he was missing in his life and fell in love with the game and its qualities.

“The passion of the game itself and the camaraderie of the guys playing it was what had me fall in love with the game on my first training session, and I’ve been loving it more and more ever since.”

Starting his new found passion in 2013, Josip has now been playing for over six years and his love for the game still continues to grow.

Playing for his local side of the Zagreb Hawks, Josip has improved his game play each year but also improved the Hawks club and Croatian league as a whole with his efforts to share the game to new people.

“As I was becoming better and discovered more and more of the game it only made me love it even more. One of the best things about it all is the challenge of overall athleticism and skills involved with it. Anyone can play on their strengths and you can always contribute to a team in some way.”

With Josip improving, so was AFL Europe as a whole and through the AFL’s development in the continent and his hard work paying off, Josip was selected in a European Legion side for being one of the best under 23’s players in the continent and played in this great side in 2014.

Around this time, Josip lived in Australia for two years and played an extremely high standard of footy in South Australia.

Using his size and strength, Josip played in the SANFL for the Sturt Football Club, which is only a league under the highest AFL standard and played for the Unley Mercedes Jets in the SAAFL, which is a great effort only years after picking up the sport.

Josip’s ability to play at such a high standard, when still being new to the sport is extremely impressive and coming back to his homeland he wanted to continue playing at a high level and was selected for his national side, the Croatian Knights.

Josip  had a great deal of success with the Knights team and was a big part of them winning some major tournaments.

“The best and dearest achievements are by far winning the European Cup in 2016 in Lisbon and Division 2 of International Cup in Melbourne in 2017 with the Croatian Knights.”

Even being selected in the World Team as one of the best of the tournament in the International Cup, Josip feels great to have all of these individual awards but describes his ‘team first’ attitude.

“Nothing beats the feeling of standing victorious with your fellow countryman, especially when they are your friends as well.”

Josip’s desire to improve and continually grow as a player is now showing on the field and now being an experienced campaigner, he is a vital part to any side he is in.

His leaping ability and presence around contests are perfect for a ruckman and Josip exploits these strengths whenever he can to win clearances for his side.

Representing Croatia in almost all of the major AFL Europe tournaments since he began playing the sport, Josip has helped the side improve each year and now become a very competitive side against Europe’s best teams.

Josip uses a team first attitude in all matches he plays in and is a great asset to help build a side to success on and off the field.

Special thanks to Belushi’s for helping grow the game in Europe

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Liam McAllion – AFL Europe