Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by Sheffield Forgers RLFC
Aleksandar Djordjevic recently completed one of rugby league’s more unusual loan moves, transferring from Red Star Belgrade on temporary move to Sheffield Forgers.
The Forgers, sponsored by Everything Rugby League, hope to use the Serbian international’s quality and skills in the remainder of their season in the Yorkshire Men’s League Division Five.
Red Star, for their part, hope that Djordjevic can gain from playing in a tough, physical competition where there are plenty of experienced players.
Red Star founder Zeljko Delic certainly thinks the 29-year-old centre or back rower has the ability to succeed in Sheffield, and continue to develop as a player.
“He’s a lean, mean, tackling machine,” Delic told Everything Rugby League.
“He’s super fit and super aggressive, a fearless tackler. His main attribute is that he never gives in, he’s always on 100%.
“He’s really aggressive in defence, he’s an excellent second rower or centre.
“From his time in Sheffield I would expect him to gain more game awareness, and more skills that he contribute to Red Star and the Serbian national team.”
Djordjevic, a lawyer by trade, converted to rugby league from rugby union, a sport in which he had excelled.
An inside centre or stand-off in union, he also captained the Serbian national rugby union team, in both the 15-a-side and seven-a-side versions of the game.
Djordjevic had something of a baptism of fire in his first game, away at Bentley A last weekend.
The game ended 30-28 to the Doncaster outfit, but Forgers fought back from 24-8 down to lead 28-24 with just a couple of minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for the Sheffield side, the effort of the fight back seemed to drain the players, and they could not keep out a last Bentley attack.
There were violent scenes on the final whistle too, with the referee awarding two red cards to Bentley players after a fight.
It was certainly an interesting experience for the young Serb, who feels that the experience of playing in such tough, intimidating contests can only improve him as a player.
“It was a very typical Yorkshire rugby league game – tight and tough! Some strong contact.” he said.
“It will introduce me to tougher opposition. I hope it will make me a tougher player.”
The Serbian international, who was on the recent tour to Yorkshire with the Serbian national side, was also very pleased with the spirit the Forgers showed in fighting back, even though they couldn’t quite clinch the win.
“It was like a dream come true, when you’re losing so much but you come back,” he said.
“This was the type of game you want to win.”
Djordjevic was also expected to play against Sheffield Hawks in a Steel City rugby league derby on July 27.
Sadly, the fixture does not look like going ahead due to the unavailability of a significant number of Hawks players, which is a real shame.
“I would like to feel that emotion,” said Djordjevic.
“I hope it wouldn’t end like this game [against Bentley], though!”
Forgers head coach Chris Coates is keen to use the Serb’s talents to help the Forgers continue their development.
“I’m hoping to help develop his game,” he said.
“There’s a lot of physical attributes in the Serbian league, but there’s a lack of smartness and intensity week-in and week-out, that could be developed.
“It’s about little bits of experience, like spotting space at plays, getting to the right parts of the field, just getting your head up and seeing what’s going on.
“That’s a big thing that’s probably ignored a lot, and I think we can bring that on.”
Coates was also impressed with how his new Serbian signing played.
“He was fantastic,” he said.
“He got on after already playing a couple of games this week for Serbia, and he came on and did some good minutes for us.
“He got involved all over the place, made quite a few breaks, and on the whole did a really good, solid job.
“Playing regular games at that kind of intensity will improve any player.”
Coates also thinks that all that Serbian players need to develop is more games at a higher level, with the players in the Serbian game possessing all the physical attributes needed to be good at rugby league.
“I don’t think there’s any issue with the physical attributes and the intensity,” he said.
“It’s just about regular games against experienced sides – that’ll just be that kick that they need.”
The Balkan region, and Serbia in particular, could well be the source of some of our sport’s superstar players in the coming years.
It is worth keeping an eye on the growing links between Sheffield and Serbia too, with those links sure to develop and strengthen as a result of this loan signing.