Croatian Australian Football National Team has a new coaching leadership: two players from our national team, Josip Kravar Zagreb Hawks player and Ivan Molnar Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers player. Boys have the longest experience in this sports so they decided to upgrade their sport’s career. Read about their plans in the first choaching mandate and how will they work together.

 -Since when have you been in Australian football?

 Josip: I started with trainings in 2006. My cousin, Krešo Franić persuaded me to join. Thank you Krešo.

Ivan: I’m playing since 2010.

 -What’s your position in the club and in the AAFC?

Josip: Since I have started playing, I am a member of Zagreb Hawks. From 2008 to 2013 I have been, both a captain and a coach. I decided to pass on the captain position to my dear friend Jan Doležal in 2013. Since 2013, I am a coach of Zagreb Hawks.

Regarding to the national team, I was both captain and a coach from 2008 to 2011. After that Ante Lončar took over the position of the national team head coach and he did a great job for us and I want to thank him for that. As well, Tomislav Cvetko took the captain position as a great, and actually the best choice for now.

At some point, I had enough of coaching because it is demanding (although we are amateurs, there is always a certain pressure).  I’ve started with administration work and since than I am the president of the AACF, which is the biggest challenge for me so far, but I’m glad that here I can give the most for my sport and the community.

Ivan: I’m the president of Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers and a member of the Executive Committee of the AAFC.

-How did you decide to apply for the coach position of a male national team?

Josip: After Ante Lončar decided to go to a coaching retirement, we lost an experienced coach. Ivan and I have the most experience after Ante in the  Australian football. My wish was to work in a team and to both facilitate our job and put quality on a higher level. When Ante was a coach, I helped him with trainings so I decided to continue with this.

Also, cooperation with Ivan was the decisive factor. I would hardly go into something like that with someone else, which shows how much I appreciate Ivan as a colleague and a freind.

Ivan: I’ve decided to apply for a coaching position because when Ante left there was an emptiness for which, according to Josip’s and my opinion we didn’t have adequate candidate. Josip and I work on tactics in our teams, we now all the players and we are among the most experienced players in the national team, so we agreed to try together to upgrade our national team. Our visions are practically the same.

Foto: Ivan Molnar

How long will your coaching mandat last?

Josip: One year; we have to show some progress at the European Championship and at the Euro Cup this year.

-How are you going to function considering that there’s two of you?

Josip: Besides that Ivan and I are good friends, we get along and we complement each other even though we have different characters. We know each other very well and we solve all our issues with the construtive discussions, in the name of achieving our goal, and that is a victory.

Ivan: We make agreements about everything. We know each other very well and we believe in each other, so we think that each of us can be a coach by itself. But, as we both still play, we think that together we can concentrate more on the game and the trainings and do a better job if we split the responsibilities. We have agreed about most of the plans.

-Is there a lot of teams in Australian football, where players are the coaches at the same time?

Josip: It was the case in England until 2008, but a lot of teams left that concept. In the “lower” Australian leagues it isn’t a such phenomenon. Even in the professional European footballthere are examples like Ryan Giggs and Gianluca Vialli who were coaches and players at the same time. I don’t  see a reason why we shouldn’t try it.

Ivan:  Without much thought, I know  Austria works like that. There’s probably more examples. It isn’t an ideal solution, but I think it is optimal.

-Compared to Ante Lončar’s training metods, would you change or retain something and why?

Josip: Every coach has his own philosophy which is largely adapted to his character, so Ivan  and I have our own and we talked a lot about it and discussed it properly. There will be changes, and it will be mainly address access to the training of players, the team and we will try to influence the awareness of individual responsibility. The concept of training will be changed in the direction of situational exercises that will propel players to “think”. Ante  made a big change in raising our skills and we want to build on it and continue to improve the skills of the players. Also, Ante introduced many exercises and a work atmosphere that we want to continue.

Ivan:  We  appreciate Ante very much like a teammate and a coach. Personally, I think every coach brings something new to the game and it is natural that something is different.  But, I’ll for sure look up to Ante because of his energy and commitment to the team.

-Do you have a coaching role models, or more? And why exactly that person?

Josip: I’m not a person who has role models, I had  a few of them and those are the people from my immediate environment. But there are coaches who I appreciate and believe that they are different from others. Alastair Clarkson is definitely a person who always surprises me. Somehow, he always manage to surprise his opponents. I think that’s  the reason Hawks won three Championship. Woosha is also my type of a coach.We’ve seen his work there from 2006 to 2007. Why them? Their teams have discipline and unity. The whole team works so homogenous and they introduced new rules in the game, it looks so tight. It is obvious that team do exactly what they want and the coaches knows their players very well. I think that if the coach isn’t a good psychologist and he don’t know his players enough,it doesn’t matter how much experience and knowledge he has.

Coaches should be aware of the possibilities and the limits of their teams, adapt and make the best from them, which in the end means the best from themself. I feel they are doing exactly that.

Ivan:  I don’t  know if I should say this, but my coaching model is from the “regular” football. It was Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary coach of Manchester United. Frankly, I don’t follow the AFL so long that I would distinguish approaches and successes of various coaches and identified myself with some of them.

-What kind of short and long term plans do you have?

Josip: I never like talking about the plans. Plan in another sense to say “dream” as without goals lead to failure. We have our goals (weekly, monthly and yearly) which will lead us to success with discipline and consistency.

Foto: Josip Kravar

Discipline and consistency will be our best friends. We have spending time with them to get closer to ours plans/dreams.

Ivan: The Short-term plan is to bring the team into the top four in the European Championships and be better in the European Cup. It’s difficult to have the long-term plan when the mandate lasts just for one season, but I believe that you always have to  think long-term. By this I mean to conduct training ensuring the development of young players and installing the values of Australian football to all players. They are: team spirit, hard work, fair play and never give up!