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8 July, 2021

From a hobby to a dream come true

FOR many athletes, the transition from playing for fun to playing for your future can be a gradual process. For Cairns Taipan’s bigman, Mirko Djeric, it was the World Championships in Lithuania where he realised that playing basketball was no longer a hobby it was his future.

By Berta Perez-Bermudez Candela

Mirko Djeric. PHOTO: Berta Perez-Bermudez Candela.

As a 17-year-old playing for Australia at the 2012 World Basketball Championships, the game took a turn and became his future and a career.

The tournament was memorable for many reasons. Djeric is Australian born, his parents migrated from Croatia to Australia in 1993. In the semi-finals Australia played Serbia with local media really playing up the Serbia v Croatia angle of this matchup.

Born and raised in Western Sydney, Djeric’s introduction to basketball started early in life.

“I started when I was five years old, because my dad used to play.

“Since I started I always wanted one thing and it’s just to play basketball, and I don’t see it as a job at all today”.

After years playing in many teams around the world, in 2019, Djeric, joined the Cairns Taipans in the NBL League. With the NBL currently in the off season, he is playing for the Cairns Marlins, MBO League to keep his fitness and skills sharp for the coming NBL season.

“You don’t have to play for the Marlins, but I just decided to stay in Cairns because I love it.

It’s awesome and we’re playing at The Fish Tank and it’s good fun”.

He is training individually every day to keep himself fit but because it is an off season league, they play twice a week as a team.

As a professional player, routine is a key, even more so before a game. “On game day, we go to the stadium to shoot around a bit and training, after that, I like to have a nice little lunch like pasta, have an hour nap and listen to some Serbian music to prepare myself mentally”, he says.

It’s really nice to see how slowly “our normal life is returning back”, after a year of craziness due to COVID.

The 2020/21 NBL season was supposed to start in October, however with the ever-changing lock-down and COVID restrictions the season started late, with constantly changing schedules along with extended periods in hotels away from home and team ‘bubbles’.

“We were in Melbourne for a whole month, it was pretty difficult and a bit tricky, but we are lucky because we had a good group”, Djeric says.

Where he is today as a 26-year-old is not because of luck, behind every game and every day, is discipline, a lot of effort, hard work and sacrifices.

“To this day I don’t think I have ever been on a holiday, because every off-season I want to just train and play and get better for next season” he says.

When speaking to teenagers and younger athletes Djeric stresses the most important thing is just to do what you love most, “where the biggest joy for you comes from”.

He says, “you need to be really focused, don’t get distracted, take it seriously and just be professional and responsible.”

When he is not suited up to play for his Taipans, he loves to hang out with friends, watch Netflix or any sport (especially football) and bring some happiness to his tummy with yummy Serbian or Greek food.

He is immensely proud of his family and feels he made it as a professional with their help.

“This is not just about me; this is about all of us (family) because their sacrifice helped me to get here.” He confesses that his inspiration and idol apart from his dad and his coaches is Drazen Petrovic, an NBA and European basketball legend.

Today, his dream and biggest challenge is to win the NBL title. “I want to win with Cairns, that’s definitely one of my goals”.

At the end of the day, his dreams are coming true. “I’m pretty lucky that I can do something that I love and get paid for it”, Djeric said.

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