13 Jul 2015

The GB University Pioneers returned from a successful development tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina, culminating in an international against the host country.

The 10-day trip saw the Pioneers engage in a host of development activity which included delivering coaching sessions to junior and adult players, meeting local government officials, universities and national and regional media.

Co-Tour Manager Steve Curtis said, “We had a fantastic time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we have extended the rugby league family and made some great friends.

“It's nice to see the geographical spread of the game across the county, we would like to thank them for their hospitality; they have a bright future in the sport.”

The first three days were based in Vitez 50km from the capital Sarajevo. The Pioneers spent time working with the local club, this year’s losing finalists in the Bosnian cup.

Support for the club and sport is big in the city and the mayor was keen to offer a warm welcome and showcase the sporting infrastructure developed.

To complete the stay there, the Pioneers played a development side made up of players from the region, winning 96-6.Curtis noted, “Despite the score line, the game was evidence of the commitment of players and points to a bright future in the area.

“The only difference was years of experience playing rugby league, the Bosnians had all of the core skills, strength and ability to challenge for domestic honours in the coming years.”

The Pioneers then headed to Banja Luka, the country’s second biggest city. They were at the centre of great media interest from regional and national television and spent the first two days balancing coaching and training sessions at local club White Rabbits with their public appearances.

White Rabbits hosted a 9's tournament mid-week in 38 degrees heat, which saw the hosts and New Thunder go head to head with two GB Pioneers teams.GB Pioneers ‘B’ won the competition in a fast and physical contest that had a great atmosphere thanks to the host’s efforts to create a festival feel with a DJ, compare and busy club house.

The tourists had their accommodation provided by Banja Luka Special Library for the Visually Impaired who held a reception in their honour.

It included a collection of art work by those visually impaired, live music and a chance to spend time with local blind and partially sighted athletes.

The Pioneers ventured to a third city, Novigrad, which sits on the Croatian border, where they spent some time enjoying the delights of river before taking the local club for a coaching and training session.

The final day before the game with Bosnia and Herzegovina was spent rafting down the river Vrbas, the venue for the European championships.

The game saw a 64-4 win for the Pioneers over the national side in Banja Luka, also played in stifling temperatures.

The tour was wrapped up with a shared hog roast and presentations to both sets of players.

Keith Sandhu, co-Team Manager, noted, “The Bosnian players have a really good understanding of how to play the game, they love the physical element and have some nice skill, I wish them well in the future development.”