Croatian league continues to grow – Slavonski Brod Tigers

Michael McCormick

There are many passionate Australian footballing nations in Europe, but none seemingly more so than Croatia. The addition of a new team, the Slavonski Brod Tigers, greatly strengthens the nation’s pursuit to have the strongest AFL national team in Europe, and the first full sized football field in Eastern Europe.

Current Tigers President and passionate AFL supporter, Tomislav Vlaović explained that he was ecstatic when a co-worker told him about the new club’s establishment in January, 2014.

“I actually thought he was kidding as all of them know how I love this game and go on and on how it’s by far the best game in the world,” stated Vlaović.

Born and raised in Melbourne,  Vlaović and his family left for Croatia 19 years ago and settled in Staro Petrovo Selo where he currently works as a Junior Sportsbook Manager at Sport-bet.  Along with the founding members, Luka Đukić and Zvonimir Marinović, have already made exceptional progress with the club, even securing a partnership with their namesake, the Richmond Tigers.

“We named the club after the Richmond Tigers in honor of Ivan Maric becoming the Croatian Ambassador for Aussie rules in 2013,” explained Vlaović.

“We tried to contact Richmond to see if they would accept us a brother club. They responded almost instantly, accepting the partnership and even offering to send us a full set of Richmond jumpers.”

Albeit a strong start, the club has already felt the pinch of financial pressure, having to self fund all of their endeavours so far.

“Times are tough in Croatia, we are getting no financial assistance from the town council of Slavonski Brod, stated Vlaović. The boys are showing unbelievable enthusiasm and will and we are moving forwards step by step.”

The club is taking huge steps having recently received permission to build their own dedicated oval and are currently in the grant application process with AFL Europe to attain goal posts. This would allow the club of around 20 players to hone their skills in front of goal.

“Our league starts on the 5th of April and the first round will be played on our home ground so we want the advantage.”

The Slavonski Brod Tigers will fit into the well established HLAN league which already consists of three clubs from Zagreb and one from Graz, Austria, and will be looking to expand by two more in 2015.

The founders of the club are both representatives of the national team, the Croatian Knights who are currently trying to raise funds to bring their team to Australia for the International Cup in August.

“They simple can’t afford to carry the costs themselves and also get very little support from governing bodies as Aussie rules is not a recognized sport in Croatia,” stated Vlaović.

If you can contribute or sponsor the Croatian Knights to enable them to get to Australia, get in contact with them via their website, or contact AFL Europe.

Croatia aiming high in 2013

Following the disappointment of the 2012 Euro Cup for the national team the leaders of Australian Football in Croatia (CAAF) have been very busy. Along with announcing Richmond Tigers Ruckman and cult hero of all men with “Mullets” Ivan Maric as its Ambassador the CAAF have just secured a major coup.

After extensive research and years of conversations with land owners in Zagreb the President of CAAF, Josip Kravar recently announced the league has been provided with land to construct the first Australian Football oval by the Faculty of Kinesiology  at the University of Zagreb.

The Faculty of Kinesiology has noticed the efforts of the CAAF and it’s hard working volunteers to develop the sport which is orientated to young people and getting them active. CAAF have the ambitious plan to construct the field within the next month to be ready for its clash with Oxford University on the 14th April. This match is likely to attract national media. Judging by the determination shown by players of the Croatian national team and the administrators of the sport no one would be surprised if they meet the deadline.

The support from the University extends to the local league with the formation of a new club “Academic Club of Australian Rules Football Zagreb” that will in time participate in the National League. They have also granted access for the CAAF to go into lectures and promote the sport.

AFL Europe would like to join CAAF in thanking the Faculty of Kinesiology at Zagreb University as this will have a major positive affect on the development of the league and ability to attract new juniors to the sport.

Sometimes disappointment is the catalyst for change and action. Certainly the CAAF and the the national team the Croatian Knights have been working hard by all accounts to put 2012 behind them and it won’t be a shock if they come and surprise a few teams at the AFL European Championships in Dublin this August. Watch this space!

CAAF are currently looking for sponsors to assist in the completion of this groundbreaking project for the sport in Europe. If you want to help please get in touch with AFL Europe at