New Serbia head coach Stuart Wilkinson has reflected on his side’s two game tour against the Yorkshire Lionhearts, saying that it is the perfect platform for them to build upon. Wilkinson brings a wealth of experience to the role having previously been on the coaching staff at Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors, and has international experience with Great Britain Academy, England, Wales, France and Russia.
He saw his new charges go down 26-22 at Heworth and 28-10 at Stanningley on their week-long tour.
“I’m really excited about joining such a talented, honest and hard-working group,” he said. “I had no hesitation accepting SRL’s offer. Belgrade has a tradition of producing some of the best players in the Balkan Super League and being part of Serbia’s system provides an exciting challenge for me. I am looking forward to going over there later in the year to see more of the domestic talent.”
Wilkinson is tying in his new role with his current position at the University of Central Lancashire. “This wouldn’t be possible without the support and cooperation from the staff there at the School of Sport & Wellbeing. I cannot thank them enough as it provides my PhD in talent development with a rich source of information and research in a high performance environment.”
“One of my other assignments will be to identify and bring through coaches,” Wilkinson confirmed. “Clearly over the two games with the Yorkshire Lionhearts there was a base to build upon and I couldn’t fault the effort and desire. But to go to the next level, and assess what it will take for Serbia to have a chance of qualifying for the 2025 World Cup, there has to be improved coach education and provision to continually improve the domestic league.”
Among those who impressed on the tour were Milos Zogovic, half back Voja Dedic and Pedrag Keglic. Only Milos Calic, who plays in France, did not come from the domestic league.
Serbian Rugby League secretary general Vladan Kikanovic commented: “Stuart has developed his trade under some very good coaches at some very successful clubs and we’re looking forward to what he will bring to us. He’s very well thought of within the game so the input he’ll have into the culture here will be invaluable. I’ve known him for a while now and he has never lost his enthusiasm for rugby league. He’s a great person to have around the squad and he’ll have a big part to play in what we are trying to achieve.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica head coach and director of rugby Romeo Monteith saw his domestic players continue to build up to the 2021 Rugby League World cup by successfully hosting the North West Lionhearts in Kingston.
The tourists played three matches, against a young Jamaica Select, Kingston Reds and Jamaica ‘A’ as well as competing in the Kingston 9s. In the final game, they defeated Jamaica ‘A’ 32-12, after trailing 8-4 at the interval, the sides having shared the spoils in the 9-a-side tournament.
“We wanted a stern test for our top domestic players and we got that and more,” said Monteith. “The English play the game from four or five years old, on average, we start at 17 or 18 and to see that we pulled off a draw in the 9s and led them in the Test match, tells us that there is a lot we are doing right.
“Our players are getting better at game tactics and awareness, however, there is still a big gap in the skill level because of the intensity of their competition and superiority in coaching techniques. Whilst we can’t bridge all the gaps at once, we will be working hard to get better, especially around decision making under pressure and fitness.”
Monteith added: “Some of our players in the Jamaica ‘A’ team are full national players and fighting for spots to the World Cup, so it was a good test for them.”