Swedish Rugby League has come along way in a very short space of time. In 2012, the national team lost 122-8 and 10-36 against Denmark and Norway respectively.
The team in those early losses was nothing more than a few individuals with a vague interest in the sport, or crossovers from its more established cousin. Paul Briggs, now Swedish Manager, but player on the day of that loss to Norway recalls ‘I turned up to the game and 10 minutes before kick off, I was still introducing myself to my team mates’. Hardly conducive for a good performance in a sport that relies so heavily on camaraderie and teamwork.
The formation of the Pan Scandinavian Championship in 2013; consisting of one side from Denmark; Copenhagen Black Swans and two sides from Sweden: Skåne Crusaders and the Kungsbacka Broncos, gave Sweden Rugby League a structure it desperately needed. With trainings now specifically for league, the sport has developed rapidly. The Crusaders have taken the PanScan title both years, and remain undefeated in the 13-man format of the game. Whilst Kungsbacka have yet to register a win, they have shown remarkable development from a team of beginners, and had representatives in the national side in 2013.
So, fast-forward 12 months and the results of 2012 were reversed with Sweden beating Denmark 38-12 and Norway 22-40 and with it taking out the 2013 Nordic Cup. Quite a turnaround in 12 months. And the future is looking even brighter.
Whilst the focus has been on attracting as many Swedish eligible players to the sport, the development has been aided by the fact that both the coach and manager of both the Crusaders and national team are Australian born, as well as the arrival of two players from Australia for the 2014 PanScan season. The know how these two brought to training and games, having come from a club in NSW boasting two NRL Grand Final winners, has been invaluable to the lesser-experienced Swedish players.
Swedish captain, Fabian Wikander, hails from Cairns but because of his Swedish parents, has moved back to Sweden; firstly for last years Nordic Cup victory, then permanently this year to turn out for the Crusaders. A move up north to Stockholm Läns has presented the opportunity for the formation of two more sides in Sweden, one based in the capital and the other in the suburb of Södertalje. July 19th sees these two sides square off, with both looking to join the PanScan competition next year. And with this brings a new player pool to continue to help the game grow.
Commercially, the game is also gaining momentum, with a recent ‘deal’ with current NRL Premiers the Sydney Roosters, who have provided the Skåne Crusaders with a playing kit which they will use this weekend when they travel to the CZRLA International 9s Tournament held in Pardubice, Czech Republic. For the tournament, the Crusaders become the Skåne Roosters.
With two training days already done, the Swedish national team look in good shape to retain their Nordic Cup title. With all teams having won it once, all will be vying to win. Denmark has already defeated Norway in the opening game, and a win for Denmark against Sweden on August 16th would see them take the title. But with the club competition being dominated by the Crusaders over their Danish rivals, and with Sweden having more strength in depth, they will be confident in setting up a Championship decider against Norway on August 30th in Lund. Whatever happens, the future is bright for rugby league, not only in Sweden, but also in Scandinavia.
Sweden Rugby League: https://www.facebook.com/swedenrugbyleague
Kungsbacka Rugby League: https://www.facebook.com/KungsbackaRugbyClub
Copenhagen Black Swans: https://www.facebook.com/CopenhagenRlfc