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Norwegian Footy 2013 – Steady As She Goes..!!

  • Saturday, April 13 2013 @ 05:45 am ACST
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Europe One thing that is clear after interviewing Adam Pearce, president of AFL Norway, is that the year 2013 will be one of consolidating their achievements of last year to build a stronger Australian Rules football product for the future.

“After a very successful debut in the Euro Cup in Edinburgh last year with our national team taking out the unofficial trophy for the best team of "developing nations", we are again making the 2013 Euro Cup in Bordeaux our focus for the year” explains Adam.

The full story of the background of Norwegian footy, and their winning of the Euro Plate at last year’s Euro Cup, is best read in Tobietta Rhyman’s article AFL Norway: The Story of the Euro Plate.

But Adam still sees local development in Norway as the focus for the immediate future.

“2012 was our best year to date with the introduction of our Kenguru Cup League (Kangaroo in Norwegian). Although the Oslo team still trained together, on Kenguru Cup nights they split up into Oslo East and Oslo West (depending on which side of the city you live on) and they joined Ås for a night of 3 solid 9-a-side games. This occurred every 3 or 4 weeks.”

Adam continues, “It proved to be very successful in creating a bit of rivalry between the teams as well giving the guys the opportunity to play fairly regular games without having to drive 3 hours to Sweden. Oslo East became the winners in the end but the guys from the university team Ås were not far behind with a great bunch of young Norwegian talent starting to come through. Oslo West also has the potential to win as well if they can hold the same regular players.”

“Starting on May 15, the Kenguru Cup will be on again this year in pretty much the same format. Word is that the Ås Battlers are recruiting well and are out to knock off the city boys in Oslo. Adam O'Toole, the head coach and president of the Ås Battlers, has had the opportunity to train indoors or on their snow-cleared artificial turf soccer pitches at the university so things are looking good. Around Oslo, it’s been a long cold winter and the snow is only just clearing now meaning that we haven't been able to train or play yet.”

The decisions to develop the local league in Norway is certainly going to have benefits for the longer term development of the game at an international level. As Adam points out, “unlike 2012 where the national team was made up of those who were "able" to come, we feel that this year we will have to introduce a proper selection process. Whilst the opportunity to play with the national flag on the chest is proving to be a bit of a carrot for many, the popularity of the game here is growing and thus the number of locals playing the game has increased hence the call for the selection process.

To aid in this process, we will also hold our first ever Oslo v Ås "All Norwegian" game. This will be a game where no Aussies will play and it will show us who is willing to get in there and get the footy. We have some really good young guys who have adapted very well to Aussie Rules footy from soccer or handball backgrounds and hopefully a couple of them will get the opportunity to play at the next level for the European Legion team in the near future.”

Following, or possibly leading, the trend of other European countries to align with local universities, Adam points out that “Whilst the Ås team seems to be developing well, the main aim for the Oslo teams is to keep their current players and recruit 10 - 15 more regulars. It seems that any club who is aligned with a university tends to recruit quite well so another aim for us in Oslo is get a foot into Oslo's main university and base a club there or even start a new club. We are working on that now.”

It is also clear that growth of the game in the country is a strong possibility. Adam adds that “hopefully in a year or two, Oslo East and West will become their own self-sufficient clubs and with Ås and potentially a club at the university, we will have a great little league going in the Oslo area. And with talk of maybe something starting in Trondheim and possibly Bergen on the west coast, we could eventually have a national league going in a few years. You never know.”

The only down note is word that another team, north of the Arctic Circle and previously the most northerly location for Australian Rules footy, has folded. Adam explains that “There was also a team in the Arctic Circle city of Tromsø for a while until the resident Aussie, Ben Jago, left back for Oz last year. Unfortunately that is no longer existent.” Resumes, however, may be welcomed!

But, on balance, the future is looking very bright for the game in Olso, and Norway as a whole. Always on the lookout for any ways to further develop the game, Adam states that “We will also send an Oslo Crows team (Oslo East and West together) and possibly an Ås team to the Swedish Cup in Jønkjøping in June. It’s a great 9-a-side tournament where all the Swedish clubs get together to play and we were invited for the first time last year. It's a great experience especially for the Norwegians as they get to play in the same format as the Euro Cup and also against some good quality Aussie and Swedish players. So we are looking forward to that as well.”

It is clear that Adam and the team in Norway have established their goals for 2013 and beyond. Rather than rush in to new terrain, the crew has looked to strengthen the areas they have already developed with success.

Time will tell, but the “steady as she goes” approach has already worked a treat, and looks as if it will continue to do so.