Croatian > Sports > Rugby


If you are interested in being associated or playing ruby in Croatia (with the possibility of playing for the Croatian National Team), contact the New Zealand Representatives for Croatian Rugby:

Michael Borich 021 717 303
Michael Nola 021 051 1139

Croatian Rugby Fundraising Luncheon 2013


On Friday 31st August the Croatian Rugby Union held our inaugural fundraising luncheon at the Croatian Cultural Society.  After many weeks

 of meetings, phone calls, visits to people who generously donated products, more meetings and even more phone calls between Milan Yelavich (Croatian Rugby National Team Coach) and myself, we finally managed to organise and carry out our first luncheon.

Our first requirement was to arrange a Master of Ceremonies and we didn’t have to look far with former All Black and Croatian International rugby player Matthew Cooper being only too happy to step up to the role, not that Matt is without familiarity with the position with both his experience as CEO of Sport Waikato but also his experience as Rugby commentator and interviewer for Sky Sport TV providing him with ample background for the role.  The two guys who we wanted him to interview was a no brainer. With only two current players with Croatian heritage in the Rugby and Football code who have represented NZ at their respective World Cups –Anthony Boric (World Cup winning All Black) and Ivan Vicelich (most capped All White) were our go to men.

Both were only too happy to be of assistance.  The next issue was finding a time when all 3 men would be available on the same day  -   easier said than done. Matt was here, there and everywhere with his commitments (he actually raced up from Hamilton that morning, after a breakfast function he was involved with), Anthony was waiting for and then recovering from major neck surgery and Ivan had the few simple tasks of winning a  Chatham Cup with Central United, playing a couple of Internationals with the All Whites and a few weddings to attend thrown in for fun.  It wasn’t easy but fortunately Friday 31st August was available for all so the date was nailed down.

With the date sorted our next step was to begin discussions with the CCS and President Len Stulich, initially over the availability of the Croatian Club for the day. The first meeting went well but Len’s first email reply following that meeting was what drove home to us just how important our relationship with the CCS was. Very simply Len outlined the CCS desire to be of whatever assistance that they could be with helping Croatian Rugby Union and our fundraising activities! Len proved as good as his word and Len, the Ladies and helpers in the kitchen and the bar showed just how invaluable they were to us on the day.

Goran Kacurov had just picked Anthony Zivkovich up from the airport following his return from Croatia playing for National Ruby Team. Colty had discussed with Goran our plans and Goran’s call to me was very simple...”Michael, I will do whatever I can to help Croatia and the Croatian Rugby Team. It was through rugby that I had some of my very earliest exposure to New Zealand and we will support you.”  “That’s great”, I said, “but it will be on a Friday afternoon.  I understand that that is hard for people with work etc.”  “Don’t worry” Goran said, “even if I have to stand on my own and sing I will be there but I am sure some of the Kralj Tomislav group will also be able to help.”

So now we had the MC, speakers, venue, entertainment, and for us Croatians one of the most important details  -  the food!  Next Milan and I started approaching potential sponsors of various products for the day. With this being a fundraising venture everybody who could assist us here would pay dividends for us. Happily I can report that everyone who we approached were more than generous in their offer and donations to us and the Croatian Rugby Union can never thank you all enough for your assistance. We were donated wine, beer, food and raffle items.  I have listed everyone who made donations at the end of this report and I would ask you to please read through the list as their support was fantastic.

So to the day  -  simply we can say that for us the day was an outstanding success. Matt started by speaking passionately about his involvement in Croatia’s RWC qualifying game against Italy in 1998. Here we have someone who has played extensively for the All Blacks, held world record point scoring records for the All Blacks and for his Waikato province and been awarded the Member of New Zealand Order of Merit and yet he speaks genuinely of the highlight that playing for and representing Croatia was for him.  I am sure it was a poignant moment for some of the younger guys in the room who still aspire to play for Croatia.

Following lunch, and before desert, Paul Vegar (Manager of the Croatian Rugby Team) gave an outline of where Croatian Rugby is at the moment, what our goals for the future are and where money fundraised today will go.  Desert was next and then after being well fed and watered, we all sat down and listened to Matt interview our sporting stars. Everyone in the room was well entertained as Matt queried Anthony and Ivan on everything from their World Cup experiences through to influences on and the highlights of their careers. We also had text in questions from the crowd so we covered the whole range including, “If they were travel agents how would they promote Croatia to the world?”  Having just returned from Croatia Anthony’s reply was very succinct  - ”Show them photos of the beaches with plenty of girls in bikinis!” Ivan, after a quick glance towards his wife, was heartedly in agreement! Through to someone wanting to know how many times a day Ivan had to shave!!  So we all learnt things and we all laughed in enjoyment and very quickly 45 minutes rushed by.

The crowd we had was many and varied. It also contained Croatian’s who don’t frequent the club and we had Kiwi’s who for the first time were being exposed to the Croatian ways. So when the Kralj Tomislav folklore group’s women began their singing performance followed by Lindo dance performed by the group, the crowd were enthralled.  Personally I was proud to see the tremendous reaction that their performances received. Sometimes those of us who regularly experience these performances can become blasé to the quality of it all.

Next Mark Sumich commenced the auctions and we auctioned the one off items of a framed Croatian Rugby jersey and also the Anthony and Ivan signed All Black and All White jerseys in the single frame.  Bidding was strong and the winners were happy with their success, although when the winner of the framed All Black/All White jersey told us that he couldn’t believe how cheap he got it for and that he had been prepared to go to $5000 we inwardly kicked ourselves! 

During the day Milan’s wife, Angela, and kids had been working tirelessly delivering drinks to the tables and clearing up and importantly for us Angela along, with Bozenka Mrkusich and Antoinette van der Sande, had been selling raffle tickets to all and sundry. In total the 11 raffle items were offered and a steady stream of happy punters walked up to claim their prizes when they were drawn.  We finished with cheese, crackers, and many litres of Port!

As I mentioned on the day in my opening address we had two simple goals for the day. We wanted everyone to have fun and enjoy one another’s company and importantly for us we needed to raise money for Croatian Rugby. I can safely concur now that we were successful on both accounts.  Raising money is never easy and so it is with great pleasure that I would like to genuinely mention now and thank the following who contributed towards the success of the day through their generous donations.  We had donations from Lion Nathan, Huapai Tavern and Carlsberg.  Donations by Villa Maria Estate, Delegats Wine Estate, Kumeu River Wines, Landmark Estate, Babich Wines, Matua Valley Wines, Sapich Bros Wines, and St Jerome Wines.  Food donations by Ivan Vuksich, Jerry Didovich, Diane Sinkovich, Nola Orchards, Westpac Mussels and Open Country Dairy.  Raffle prizes were generously donated by Nick Letica  Placemakers Cook St, Gee Gee’s Bar and Brasserie, Croatia Times Travel, Gilbert Rugby Balls, Tastes from around New Zealand, Nola Orchards and Eurodell.

We had the pleasure of being entertained by Goran Kacurov and the Kralj Tomislav Folklore Ensemble.  And of course Matthew Cooper, Anthony Boric and Ivan Vicelich who not only gave their time freely but both Anthony and Ivan also donated playing jerseys for us.  And last but not least we would again like to thank the Croatian Cultural Society and in particular President Len Stulich for their tremendous assistance.

Michael Borich

Croatian Rugby Union