Rugby League is thriving in Norway.
This year’s competition began on 6 May with seven teams playing in two zones. By dividing the sides into the two groups, travel costs and travel distance are reduced. Three teams compete in the northern zone and they are the Oslo Capitals, the Bodo Barbarians and the Trondheim Rugbyklubb. The western zone teams are the Flekkefjord Tigers, the Porsgrunn Pirates, the Stavanger Storm and the Sandnes Raiders.
There are also five up and coming clubs who play some social games and act as feeders to the seven competition teams. These five sides are Sparbu Rugby, Nannestad Norsemen, Kragero Rugby, Lillestrom Lions and the Farsund Bobcats. The most northern club is the Bodo Barbarians and they are probably the only Rugby League club located in the Arctic Circle. With a population of around 55,000, Bodo is 200 kms inside the Arctic Circle and has been runner up in the Norwegian championship four times and won the competition once. It has a mixture of young and older Norwegians plus several ex pats. Bodo has a latitude of 67 degrees north. The southern most club is the Farsund Bobcats with a latitude of 58 degrees north. Farsund is a growing club of all Norwegian players and the town has a population of 9,000 or so. The distance from Farsund to Bodo is more than 1,700 kms and the driving time is 21 hours.
The Oslo Capitals are four times winners of the competition. The team is based in urban Oslo where the population is close to one million.There have a large number of ex-pats from which to draw.
The Trondheim Rugbyklubb was founded in 2015 and was runner-up in their first season. Trondheim is a cosmopolitan university city with Viking roots. The population is 190,000 and students from the University Rugby Union club make up the core of the Rugby League team. Located halfway between Oslo and Bodo, there is an eight hour drive each way or a 50 minute flight.
Flekkefjord is a five and a half hours drive south of Oslo and has a population of 10,000. The Tigers are a young team with 95 percent being Norwegians from around the local area. They are well known in their area for the work they do with children and also their efforts to grow rugby league.
The Porsgrunn Pirates are captained by a Norwegian national player and field a team comprising 90 percent Norwegians. The town of Porsgrunn is two hours from Oslo and has a population of 35,000.
A new team to the competition, the Stavanger Storm come from a rugby union background and in this code they have won several national titles. The city is seven hours drive from Oslo and has a population of 210,000 with many ex-pats because of the main employment being oil production.
The Sandnes Raiders joined the competition last year and are mostly a young team. Sandnes has a population of 74,000 and is just under a seven hours drive to Oslo.
The Norwegian Rugby Federation is the controlling body for rugby league, rugby union, aussie rules and wheelchair rugby in Norway. Rugby League is run by a sub-committee, which includes the managers of all clubs. The President, Lee Johnson, is a former English Rugby League player and a former Royal Marine. There are about 270 players in Norwegian Rugby League with 80 percent Norwegian born and the other 20 percent being ex-pats from all over the world.
There are six referees who travel around the country controlling matches. Every player has to be licensed under the Norwegian Sports Committee before they can play. They also have to complete an online diploma from Anti Doping Norway. If a player is red or yellow carded, his name and the referees report is sent to the head referee and an internal sitting committee decides on what actions are to be taken.
New Zealander, Dave Hunter, is the National Coach and he holds a Level 2 coaching Certificate. At the moment Dave has a squad of 28 players preparing for the international with Sweden on 17 June.
On Saturday 20 May, the Stavanger Storm played the Flekkefjord Tigers at Flekkefjord. The Storm were behind 20-16 but came home strongly in the last 15 minutes to win 36-20. Captain/coach of the Storm is Australian Nathan Cummins, who is the brother of Wallaby winger Nick Cummins (15 Tests for the Wallabies). Nick is known throughout Australia and the rugby world as the ‘Honey Badger’. Last year, Nick now 29, visited his brother and came on as a substitute for Stavanger in their win over the Oslo Rugby club in the final of the Norwegian Rugby Union Championship.
By Barry Ross