A New South Wales Schoolboys and Under-19s representative, Kovacic played for Eastwood in the Shute Shield from 2014 to 2017, winning the Grand Final in successive seasons while also appearing for both the Western Sydney Rams and the Sydney Stars in the National Rugby Championship (NRC).
The 6ft 3in, 106kg back rower moved to London from Sydney last year and played for Richmond before picking up a knee injury which ruled him out until the end of the season.
“Overall the experience was a bit frustrating,” he admitted. “I joined midway through the season and then picked up the injury which was compounded by the fact that I was still finding my feet in London.
“I was pretty set on signing with Richmond and doing a full season there, but I had a few mates who said OEs were a good club and quite ambitious in regards to where they want to progress in the next few years, so I thought I would have a look. After speaking with Gav [Lach] who was straight up about what OEs is about and where the club is looking to go, I thought a change could be what I needed and OEs were a good fit. To be honest it reminded me a lot of my club in Sydney.”
Kovacic describes himself as old school, hard working back row forward and believes Elthamians’ attacking brand of rugby will suit his game. “I’ve never been the fastest or the biggest, so I have had to find other ways of contributing,” he said. “Coming from Australia where there is a more attacking mindset than the traditional European game, it was always going to appeal to me to move to a club that likes to throw the ball around.”
Kovacic’s arrival at College Meadow means Elthamians can now boast another fully fledged International in the squad alongside Adam Preocanin (Germany), Ollie Claxton (Belgium) and Dom Lespierre (Guyana). Kovacic qualifies for Slovenia through his grandparents and most recently played at No.8 in Slovenia’s 31-20 victory over Serbia in this year’s Rugby Europe International Championships.
“I’ve played a few games for Slovenia now,” Kovacic said. “My mate at Eastwood actually plays for Croatia so through a few contacts I linked up with Slovenia and have done three tours since. Ive played a couple of games in Slovenia and then toured to Cyprus and Serbia. It’s a completely different experience and you meet people you would never really come across otherwise!”
Now though, Kovacic’s focus is firmly on a new chapter of his career at Elthamians. The back row is an area of strength at the club but he is looking forward to the challenge of competing for a starting role. “I don’t know anyone at the club, so I’m going in with a clean slate,” Kovacic said. “The main goal is to get my body right, familiarise myself with the team, the structure and my role and then focus on putting some good performances throughout pre-season.”
OEs Director of Rugby Gavin Lach said: ”Michael joins us from Richmond where he broke into the 1st XV in the Championship last season, but injured his knee against Ealing which put him out for a few weeks. We are pleased that we can add him to our plans - it gives us some real options in our back row now. It also gives us a chance to rest some players when needed, unlike last season which was a real slog for some players without a break.”
Updated 12:16 - 17 Jul 2018 by Jon Edwards