OBILIC ROYALS ON RECORD
The 2010 Draza Mihailovic Cup will be best remembered for two things: records and rows. By records; unprecedented or merely equalling previous feats. Rows; that too sits in the same basket, but nowhere as dire as Vlado Jankovic’s appalling record from the foul line. Vlad had two air balls; one after the other in the grand final – and he was booed by his own teammates! Needless to say, the tongue in cheek humour was well warranted, as the mighty Obilic Royals claimed the DMC trophy – compassionately known as “Steve” or “Eddy the Eagle” – for the third year running and for the sixth time in history. Obilic Basketball Club now the lead the way with the most number of wins, surpassing the tally set by the temporarily defunct Sydney Sokolovi (five titles). It is rightfully fitting to say that Obilic are now the most successful club in DMC history.
Success is hard to achieve, let alone maintain it. Most strive for it, and others have failed abysmally and catastrophically and being deemed a failure is hard to digest. Obilic have lost both the 2003 and 2007 grand finals – and that as reigning premiers after claiming the title in 2002 and 2006 respectively. The 2003 loss to Adelaide Beograd in Sydney was a heartbreaker. Obilic, mooted for a consecutive win were dethroned, suffering a 23-point loss – and that at home! Fortunately, Obilic have reeled through the vicissitudes of the sporting cycle to come out on top. The maiden win on home soil in 2008 was the start of many pinnacles, and the 102-49 win over rivals Brisbane White Eagles eschews the failings of the past, as it also encapsulates the dawn of a new era of dominance.
The gigantic win has set a whole new benchmark, as it also adds to the prolonged annals of the tournament. The 53-point deficit now stands a record and Obilic are the first side to ever eclipse the 100-point barrier. Without an iota of bias, it was quite apparent from tip-off that the Royals would eventuate as the 2010 champions. The Royals were on a 12-0 run and when quarter time was up, the semaphore read 32-12. Come half-time, 50-24. Royals swingman Sveto Gavrilovic set the LED alight, recording his side’s first two points. Hence, the “domino effect” initiated. Forward Nemanja Kovacina was a vile force in the key, displaying his arsenal of low-post scoring with a sweet touch. Vlado Jankovic added to the pillar of defence, using his long arms to detest the scoring options of Brisbane.
DMC stalwart and Obilic President Stevan Sipka, a winner of seven titles, modestly proclaimed that the 2010 Royals side is purely “the best ever”. The current Knights forward and Royals coach had this to say: “This team is by far the best, no doubt. I have continually said this in the past, but in my last title win , I must say that it was the best Royals side I was ever a part of. I wouldn’t consider myself as being a member of the ‘best side’, rather, a member of one of the greatest ever Royals sides. Our guys [Royals 2010] are young, well-tuned and are true professionals. They deserve a lot of credit”.
As intimated earlier, the Royals would eventuate as champions for the third-year running – and thankfully they won, as “Steve” lacked the etchings of 2009! Sipka’s depiction of the Royals as being “professionals” was accurate; albeit, you’d expect a bit of competition with the professional tag, yet the way the boys played ascended the modern mantra of sheer dominance and supremacy. The Cabramatta clan were devoid of selfishness and individualism. The ball moved and it created opportunities. Need not one be a point-guard, or a small forward, as favouritism was non-existent when it came to knocking the down-town shots. Were the Royals serious? Yes. Did they show it? No. Humour was only a fastener, adding to the often forgotten element of “players having fun”. When your teammates are mocking you at the free-throw line (just ask Vlado Jankovic), you know that the outcome has sufficed.
Rejuvenated point guard and former Knight Zoran Salipur – who last played with the Royals in Albury, 2005 – was directing the key plays from above (i.e., beyond the arc). Although he finished with 5 points, he bagged a number of assists (lost count, but I think he was on the same par as Boston’s number 9) and was instrumental in setting up the big post plays for the likes of Gavrilovic – who surprisingly had ONE from downtown – and the all-powerful mutant-like specimen Petar Cvijeticanin, who scored 14 points.
The Royals were by far, one of the youngest sides in the 2010 campaign, and DMC has bore witness to a number of talented younglings since the tournament first surfaced in Melbourne, 1993. For some innate reason, there has always been some form, if you want, obsession with the young baller. Ever recall a banter when you didn’t mention a young chap who played like an adult? What makes the youth stand out? Cast your mind back to 1993 when Nik Miric – at that time, 15 – claimed the youth MVP award. It raises eyebrows. It can seem odd to the sport savvy, but as the old adage goes, “how young is too young?” The uncompromising concern of inexperience and the lack of ability has always been anchored in opinion.
This is where Mirko Djeric enters the par. The ever so savvy point guard was not only relevant to the Royals’ triumphant win, but to DMC’s history. At 15, he has amassed a lot in such a short space of time. Rewind to 2008, he top-notched 32 points for the Obilic Warriors in the Division II grand final – unfortunately, he missed out on receiving MVP honours. As time wavered, Djeric’s game has improved. That’s why DMC 2010 belonged to him. It was perfect timing. The AIS bound teenager scooped up 21 points – highest for both sides – and set foot on becoming a DMC legend, winning the MVP award. In his first division one grand final, Djeric was flawless in all facets of the game. Sure, he did miss a few shots, yet his credit laid with his urbane ability to assimilate to a higher tier of basketball reserved for the experienced. There was no mismatch at all, as the time allotted for his on court presence yielded optimism.
Dj Eric (well, it’s a nickname bestowed onto his sisters, so thought I’d use it here), seemed quite feeble in his explanation on his reward: “Winning the MVP award wasn’t really that important to me, as long as we won DMC”, said the modest Djeric, who’ll be calling the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] home at the end of January.
“To be honest, I felt very happy and proud when my name was called out. DMC was a great test for me, to see if I can play with and against older, stronger and faster basketball players. It was a great experience for me playing in the first team, and to be coached by Stevan Sipka, as well as, playing alongside my very talented teammates”. Well said by the down-to-Earth Djeric, who will be dearly missed by family, friends, ex-girlfriends as he hits the ACT.
Skimming along the categories, the Obilic women’s, and juniors’ side have all failed to match the rhythmic success of the Royals. It was more or less a repeat of last year’s campaign in a different state. The most frustrating loss of all was that of the Obilic women (a.k.a. Retros). The once invincible side featuring the likes of Daniela Kljajevic, the Punosevac sisters, Natasa Filipovic, and Tamara Djeric were unable to recapture the winning spirit of 2008, succumbing to BC Red Stars. It was a game that seemed ostensibly certain for an Obilic win. Sadly, the win was relished by the new stars, 29:25. It’s their first time to clinch the trophy – in fact; the women’s trophy’s gone missing since the early 2000s. The Obilic juniors had the same fate as the chicks, losing the final to Miller-based club.
Better luck next year, as they say. We hope. On behalf of Obilic Basketball Club, I would love to thank Adelaide Beograd on managing the 17th rendition of the Draza Mihailovic Cup. The boys from the City of Churches should be commended on their assurance and devotion to the tournament. I admit, we were quite chary at the docek when we were served goulash! Our pores knew no boundaries! Glad to say, we didn’t end up decorating the toilet seat. The presupposition thought of a cruel ploy was immediately dismissed. The boys dished out another fine cuisine on presentation night – pasta with boscaiola (I think, taste was similar) sauce. Alcohol (especially when one drinks into the oblivion) and pasta do not go hand-in-hand. I believe the sauce (or source) was the key to some of us waking up without a hangover the next day (or to be accurate, the same day). Whatever it was, I’ll have to get Adzaip to reveal the truth. That’s the G-Mac report for DMC 2010. I wish you all a belated Happy New Year and all the very best for 2011!