The Eastmoor man behind Serbia’s rugby league success
The man behind Serbia’s recent success at international level is a familiar figure to Wakefield and specifically Eastmoor rugby league supporters.
Serbia gained promotion from European Championship B after defeating Ukraine 54-18 and Russia 66-10 in internationals last week – and overseeing their triumphs was their new head coach Darren Fisher, who is also Eastmoor Dragons’ director of rugby.
Daz is a former coach with Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers and has plenty of international experience, having been Spain’s head coach for six years, but he has just come through his first tournament with Serbia – and things could not have gone better as they won both their matches by convincing margins.
After the victory over Ukraine at the FK Heroj Stadium in Belgrade, Fisher said: “It is a massive result for us and the team showed pride in their jersey.
“We delivered our game plan very well and it’s good to see the skills of all the domestic players, they should be proud of those roots.”
On the previous game against Russia, Fisher said: “It was a good day in the office.
“We worked on how we wanted to play, the aspect around what we wanted from the game and I asked for it to be competitive, competent and show some courage and passion in ourselves, they listened and delivered. If I say it was in a good way it was a struggle to pick one player for the man of match it indicates that there was plenty of stand-outs.
“Some of the squad would certainly not look out of place in the pro game.
“The players in the squad are a mix of experience and youth, on the bench were three U19s and on the field some good experience leading those around the park.
“The best thing is that Serbia have a good strong domestic competition and these things help when it comes to the next level at international.”
Reward for Serbia’s success now is promotion to Euro A and Fisher says the ultimate goal is for Serbia to play top flight European rugby league.
Daz, meanwhile, is enjoying his time out in Serbia since taking up the head coaching role with the national side.
He added: “It’s really good, I have had good relations with Serbian officials since Eastmoor had a couple of players over and under former Trinity coach Chezzy.
“I have remained in contact over the years while I coached Spain so to get the call was one that both parties felt it was a good fit and I’m honoured to coach a great nation.
“These guys here know how to look after you, there’s some really good hard working people here.”
Daz explained how it came about that he got the job: “I was talking to RLEF officials about a couple of possible positions in helping develop other nations following my resignation from
Spain so I have been in discussions about that until covid delayed travel and it was impossible to coach abroad.
“Stuart Wilkinson was the previous coach and due to work commitments stepped down and I got a call to see if I would be keen to take over.
“They knew my philosophy in rugby league and it seemed right for both of us.
“A big attraction for me was the development pathways in Serbia, everything ticks the right boxes for me. I’m very passionate about youth development and it’s evident here we are both the same.
Daz added: “I was coach of Spain for six years. I started with nothing to winning Euro C and runner-up in Euro B and had two stints in the World Cup qualifiers.
“From going with four players to over 400 was a massive achievement.
“Having success not just nationally but domestically too was a great experience. I also coached the Barla GB U19s and took them on tour to Canada so overall this is my third stint at international rugby league.
“It’s very different in terms of international rugby, the levels are different and it’s different in the aspect that you only get to train these players in camps and not have the luxury of having a weekly structure.
“A lot relies on having good club coaches to help players get to the level for selection.
“It’s difficult to say where the levels are in terms of comparison to professional players but a lot of my coaching philosophy stays the same if I coach an U8s group to elite athletes.”