Just how does a player who was born and bred in Victoria and who played in the Intrust Super Cup in both Rockhampton and Redcliffe end up being part of rugby league history by playing for a Serbian club side?
Welcome to the rugby league odyssey of Darcy Etrich.
Etrich was recently part of the Red Star Belgrade team that made their Challenge Cup debut against Millom in the United Kingdom – but his story begins much further south.
Originally part of the Melbourne Storm junior system, the former CQ Capra and Redcliffe Dolphin has had quite the rugby league journey.
Growing up in Melbourne, Etrich’s first taste of the oval ball wasn’t playing rugby league, but rather rugby union.
But a switch of codes to league at 16 saw the hooker / halfback fall in love with “the greatest game of all” in a region known for their passion for Australian Rules.
After traveling the country and the globe, wandering the world for new opportunities; other stop-offs in Etrich’s journey include: suiting up for Maitland in the strong Newcastle competition and another stint in rugby union, this time with the NSW Waratahs and the NSW Country Eagles.
The clubs kept on coming for Etrich when in 2016 and 2017, he was selected for the Newcastle Yowies Indigenous rugby league side that toured Great Britain. The team played against some famous Super League clubs in Wakefield Trinity and the London Broncos.
However, his rugby league career would then take a dramatic twist.
Via his recruitment agent, Etrich was put in touch with Serbian outfit Red Star Belgrade and their director Colin Kleyweg.
Kleyweg has an incredible passion not only for his beloved Red Star rugby league team, but for Serbian rugby league in general is infectious.
He was instrumental in enticing Etrich to board a plane for Belgrade to ply his trade with one of the most ambitious clubs on the international rugby league scene at the moment.
“Colin is great. He just has all the boy’s interest at heart,” Etrich told QRL.com.au.
“I believe that Red Star are bridging the gap on the international scene and Colin is a massive part of that.”
Etrich still has ambitions though of playing rugby league in Australia again, but for the moment his focus lies with Red Star Belgrade.
Red Star put in an ambitious bid to enter one of the most prestigious competitions in the world – the Challenge Cup – and they were given the green light as the first Serbian team to participate in this historical competition that dates back to 1896.
Interestingly, they were pitted in their first round match against the oldest rugby league club in the world in Millom RLFC.
Sadly for Etrich and his team, it proved to be a tough assignment against a club who live and breathe rugby league in these parts of the world.
In true Cumbrian-style weather with gale force winds and driving rain, Millom eventually ran out winners 38-10 at their home ground Coronation Field.
“Our side learned a lot against the game vs Millom,” Etrich said.
“Some of our players had never even been on a plane before, let alone to another (international) rugby league club.
“Red Star have a lot of areas to improve in I know, but we are getting there, and I want to be a part of that.”
The invaluable experience he brings to the table will only strengthen the club.
Fans of the international game are hoping to see Kleyweg and his team chase their dreams of being the next big thing in rugby league, with Etrich playing a big part.
Where Etrich ends up next is a mystery, but wherever he is up, he will certainly be a valuable addition to any club.
Main Image: Darcy Etrich (then of CQ) is about to be tackled by Wynnum Manly's Jake Granville in 2013. FILE IMAGE