INTERVIEW // MILAN YELAVICH

 

MILAN YELAVICH

Date of birth
13.10.1965.
Place of birth Henderson (Auckland), Novi Zeland
Coaching Croatia since
2011
Number of matches as coach
28
Previous jobs in rugby Takapuna RFC (NZ) 1997,98,99
Naas RFC (Ireland) 1998-99,99-00,00-01
North Harbour 2nd XV(NZ) 2002,03,04,05
New Zealand Supporters Club Invitation side 2004
North Harbour NPC provincial team 2006,07,08
Auckland Blues Developement team 2006
New Zealand Barbarians 2006
Waitemata RFC Premier Team(NZ)2010,11,12,13
Auckland Development Team 2010
Croatia 2011,12,13,14,15
North Harbour U/19 2014,15
Trophies North Harbour Club championship winners 1997,98,99
Club coach of the year 1999
Winners of Lienster league (Ire) Div 1 1999/2000
All Ireland league playoff winners (promotion) 1999/2000
Winners NZ National Development team (2nd XV) competition 2004
North Harbour Representitive coach of the year 2004
Ranfurly Shield winners 2006
North Harbour Representitive coach of the year 2006
North Harbour Representitive coach of the year 2015

 Hrvatska verzija

1. After excellent results in the past representative campaign, how satisfied are you with progress and what is the atmosphere in the team after two important victories in a row?

It was great to finally go through a campaign with two victories. I enjoyed seeing the joy and satisfaction that the players showed after the success on the field. Being able to achieve those results without team leaders Tonći Buzov, Jai Ayoub and Mario Ozich being there should give the players more confidence of their own abilities. The victories are a result of the hard work that all the squad have put in over recent times.

2. What are your goals with the national team in the future and what is the plan for the spring games with the Czech Republic and Switzerland?

To continue learning about the game and improving each time we play together. Winning and enjoyment is also important and go hand in hand together. The players are starting to see that with hard work and commitment, we can grow our game and improve the way we play. At the moment we are competing well in this division, but to be able to compete in the division above, we will need to have more depth of players to choose from. To do this we must try and grow the game locally within Croatia and continue to give individual players the opportunity to play in stronger leagues throughout the world.
The Czech and Swiss games will be very hard as both sides are looking for promotion and I’m sure will be using all the playing resources at their disposal. Both unions have many players playing in professional leagues in Europe where the standards are high.

3. You coach Croatia since 2011, are you satisfied with the progress during that period and what is the difference between today's team and those you took over at the beginning?

I would obviously be more satisfied if we had won more games. I have enjoyed seeing some of the players careers develop. Guys like Ivan Miljak who is now doing really well in the UK after coming through from Nada. I would say that the players understand that fitness and strength levels play a big part in their performance on the field and the dedicated players are working hard on their personal development. I think that the majority of the players now understand the type of game I coach and the skills required for the position they play. I would like to think that I know the guys better now and can get better performance out of them….The main difference from 2011 to now for me would be that we play a different style of game, one that involves all the players in attack and defense….Maybe the players could answer this question better!

4. When you look back, are there some things you would change in the past five years of your coaching work?

If I was able to stay more often in Croatia, I would like to spend more time at the clubs and more specifically with the coaches. Unfortunately we are short on coaching resources and experience in Croatia. Recently it’s been good for the players to experience working with Anthony Poša and Reon Graham (Sevens) and getting different ideas and views from these experienced coaches who are keen to help Croatia Rugby. The more exposure to different ideas and coaching styles, the players get the better for them to learn.

5. Have you heard from some of the players during the break, how do you follow their games in clubs and how do you keep up to date with Croatian rugby?

The internet and Facebook is a great way to keep in contact with the players. Coverage of the games comes in many ways. Berislav Rožman provides a lot of coverage with the photos he shares. All the club websites are regularly updated and if that isn’t enough, I normally get a text from someone on the winning team!

6. Are there some new candidates for the national team?

Within Croatia there is of course the group of players who have been selected and done well in the U/18 tournaments in recent years. There is a lot of good young kids working hard and enjoying rugby with their clubs. We are also getting enquiries and interest from players around the world hoping to be able to play for Croatia.

7. In your opinion, what marked rugby 2015?

On the playing field, being able to get two wins from the November campaign for Croatia and seeing a fantastic Rugby World Cup tournament was great, but for me 2015 will be remembered for the unfortunate injury sustained by our captain Tonći Buzov while playing in Scotland. The support and best wishes sent out to him shows how much respect he has among his peers.

8. What do you think are the essential management skills of a sucessful head coach?

Preparation and planning is important for myself. Trying to make the environment enjoyable for all helps with performance also. I think the team needs to see that I am well orginized and that we are working towards a goal that is obtainable.

9. How would you describe yourself as a coach in three words?

Broken old man!!!

10. You are currently in New Zealand, what do you do when you don't have national team obligations?

Busy at work trying to run Yelavich Transport Ltd; our family trucking company. Any free time is spent following our kids sports or out on the water boating. There is also the possibility of doing some coaching here in NZ again this year if time allows.

11. Do you find it difficult to balance time between your personal life and rugby?

Rugby has always been a part of my life so it’s normal for me to always consider it with anything else I do, but I have to admit it is not easy being away from work and family for long periods when away with Rugby commitments.

12. First three associations on rugby?

Enjoyment, winning, commitment.

13. Your favorite game with Croatia?

When we beat Malta in Zagreb (2012), Dominic Drazenovic got sent off and we had to play 40 minutes with only 14 players .Tonći Buzov ended up at #9 . It was a huge effort from the team but we managed to win.

14. Favorite memories from time spent in Croatia?

Enjoy visiting my family in Ravča whenever I get the chance. I always take the opportunity to swim in the Adriatic, whatever the temperature may be….and the food!