7m - David Mandic: “Handball has always been my only choice“

David Mandic

David Mandic has without doubt proved himself as the most important player of his team this season. In only a year and a half, after arriving from Izvidjac Ljubuski, ‘Manda’ managed to become a vital part of the team led by coach Veselin Vujovic. From Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, where he for the first time showcased his amazing skillset on the big stage, Mandic has definitely learned a lot becoming a great player which is already on the wish list of many great European teams. Two senior national team competitions are already behind him as well as European silver medal from Sweden in January. However, for now, Mandic will stay in Zagreb where he has really managed to grow as a player.

This season he’s managed to upgrade a few things, especially because coach Vujovic was forced to change the defensive scheme in which Mandic was playing the front one in 5-1 system. Vujovic will also say he’s progressing as a player but his wish to be everywhere on the court is sometimes slowing him down because ‘sometimes you have to make decisions because you simply can’t do it all’. However, what matters the most is that Manda is with Vujovic in PPD Zagreb as well as with Cervar and Duvnjak in Croatian national team making steps in the right direction.

How satisfied are you with the season so far?
I can say I am satisfied although I would be a lot happier if we managed to get through to the next stage in EHF Champions League. However, we’ve started the season badly and it has simply taken us a little too much time to get things going. We’ve also had a few injury problems, I was dealing with ankle soreness after the European Championship but we were pushing and we’ll use this break now. We didn’t have right options on some positions but that’s how it goes. If it started now we would have probably made it but it is what it is now. Next year will hopefully be better.

Despite of all the problems, you did a great job in SEHA – Gazprom League.
We did what was expected finishing group stage above Meshkov in the standings and then securing that semi-final spot against Tatran. We have ambitions but we’ll see how things will go down. I feel like we’ve finally managed to catch the right rhythm, that we’re growing from match to match. Veszprem are at the moment a few steps above everyone else and we’re aware of that but we definitely won’t surrender.

Defense is your biggest strength which is quite odd taking into consideration that wingers are usually mostly in charge of scoring.
We, people from Herzegovina, are simply built different. That was never a problem. You have to show the right attitude. I think that’s what matters the most although I’m not forgetting about the offensive side of the ball either. Having 5/5 in the first half of a big match is something that makes me happy and those defensive stats are always a plus.

What would you say is your main position on the defensive side of the court and who taught you to play defense?
I can deliver as a front one in 5-1 system as well as the second one in 6-0. I’ve really had great coaches. First Zdenko Grbavac, then Dario Mikulic, Slaven Tomic and Silvio Ivandija. They were all mainly focusing on defense which is why I’m thinking like that as well.

Is there any player you look up to?
I’ve been told my style reminds people of Patrik Cavar and honestly I would really like to grow into such a player one day. I didn’t really have a chance to watch him play live but I’ve seen all of his clips on YouTube and I know he used to be a great, dominant player on both sides of the court.

What made you grow into such a tough player at such a young age?
Handball has always been my only choice. For years I used to walk a pretty long way to get to trainings. I used to be there an hour early, working on my own and then training with the rest of the guys. Ever since I’ve managed to get a car it has become a lot easier. And I’m not planning to slow down – I’ve never been seriously injured, I’m young and I’ve been through a lot. I’m simply looking forward to all the future challenges.

David Mandic was also shining on the European Championship. Never before has a player, in his first appearance on EURO, led his team in minutes played. Never before Manda came in at least and that says quite enough about the type of guy he really is.
That entire tournament was a big experience for me. I mean, I’ve already been a part of the national team on WCh in Germany last year but this tournament was different. You’re aware everyone expects you to play for 60 minutes, to play hard despite of the fact there is no one who can replace you which is just the situation I found myself in after coach decided to make that change. A lot of thoughts are going through your head in those moments, what if the team needs you to do something and you simply can’t? However, I managed to get through it and I’ll be honest and say one thing – it was really exhausting but if I needed to play six more matches I would’ve done it, be sure about that. People around the national team were really taking care of us and I’d like to use the opportunity to once again thank them for everything they’ve done.

Taking everything into consideration, that silver medal came as a great prize for everything.
Of course. I mean, we’ve had a chance to go all the way but it simply didn’t work out. Cindric was already injured, Karacic was dealing with some issues, Duvnjak as well. Too bad Martinovic wasn’t there because I feel like he can really help a lot with the skillset he has along with Stepancic. However, it is what it is. We have to be patient and I’m sure we’ll make it.