Eastwood’s Other International
by Paul Treanor
Jai Ayoub is not the only International player currently playing for the club. Mak Jelec Dozo who has been impressing in our lower grades is a Swedish International who has come to Eastwood to learn more about the art of playing Front Row. Mak connection to Eastwood comes from his Captain back in Sweden our own Rhys Allen who will be putting on the Blue and White this weekend over at Manly for the first time in a few seasons. Rhys has also played for the Swedish National team.
Mak came to Sweden and rugby in an interesting way. Born in Sarajevo in what was at the time Yugoslavia (now the Capital of Bosnia). The war that saw the break up of Yugoslavia impacted on Mak’s family and they fled their home going to a summer house they owned in Croatia. With “bullets flying around” it wasn’t a pleasant Sunday drive but they made it and found some refuse until the fighting between the various sides escalated making it unsafe to stay in Croatia. They became dual citizens. The break up of Yugoslavia gave them a Bosnian passport along with the Croatian one they were also granted. Mak mother wanted to live in a peaceful place to raise her children and with the growing tension between the Bosnian and Croatian communities the decision was made to again move – this time the destination was Sweden. The journey took them two days by car and the two sets of passports helped them make their way through Europe. Their Croatian passports got them out of Croatia but the German government had closed their borders to Croatians and so they had to use their Bosnian passports to get them into and through Germany. Unlike the Germans, Sweden had stopped more Bosnians from entering their country and so out came the Croatian passports to allow them to enter Sweden where they found refuse from the war and racial tension.
Mak did his schooling in Sweden and has been studying Aeronautical Engineering at University. He did his one year military service in the Swedish Navy and when he came out his soccer coach suggested, with his aggression and having bulked up, he might be more suited to rugby which is a summer sport in Sweden. Having played a lot of different sports and looking for something to have fun and burn up his energy he took up rugby and found it to be a game he had been looking for.
Mak joined the Stockholm Exiles, a club set up by a rugby-mad Scotsman that attracted a number of overseas players, including several from Eastwood. Apart having fun playing rugby one of the other attractions of playing in Stockholm was the blond Swedish girls.
It was playing for the Exiles Mak met a number of Eastwood players who had gone to play in Europe including Rhys Allen. During his time at the Exiles he has had the opportunity to play all over Europe including Italy, Germany, Denmark, Croatia and Scotland. Internationally Mak had a choice. He could play international rugby for Bosnia or Croatia with his dual citizenships and was residentially qualified with Sweden. With a number of team mates in the national side he decided to play for Sweden.
Mak established himself in the back row moving to the front row during a match when a prop was unable to carry on and no replacement was available. He found the first experience a challenge he had been looking for and decided to continue with his quest. He says Rugby in Stockholm is around Second or Third Grade Sydney Premiership standard and wanting to improve his technique and overall game decided to come out to Australia and he naturally came to Eastwood. He first came in 2011 but had to return before getting past pre-season training. This year he is here to stay for the full season and see what happens. He has to return to Stockholm for his sisters wedding in 2016 and who knows, with a city full of blondes and rugby the temptation may be too great for a return to Eastwood. Neil Tyler is impressed with his strength and how he is improving as he learns more about the delicate art of front row play.
Apart from Rugby, Mak also wants to finish his degree and one day design and build an aircraft. Until then we look forward to watching his progress at Eastwood.