As they prepare to make their entry in this season’s Nordic Cup, with a match against Denmark in Copenhagen on 16th August, holders Sweden are hoping continued domestic progress will help them become the first Scandinavian nation to win the trophy twice.
The formation of the Pan-Scandinavian Club Championship in 2013, consisting of one side from Denmark, Copenhagen Black Swans and two from Sweden, Skåne Crusaders and Kungsbacka Broncos, gave the Svensk Rugby League Forening the structure it needed and the sport has developed rapidly since.
The Crusaders – who won the Czech 9s last weekend - have taken the Pan-Scan title both years and remain undefeated in the 13-man format of the game. And while Kungsbacka have yet to register a win in the competition, they have shown remarkable development from a team of beginners and had representatives in the national side last year.
Swedish captain, Fabian Wikander - who hails from Cairns but because of his Swedish parents moved back to his native land and joined Crusaders - recently turned out in a pioneering game as his new side Södertalje took on Stockholm. Based out of a rugby union club, Södertälje – a suburb of the capital - plan to enter the Pan-Scan in 2015 with Stockholm doing likewise the year after.
Sweden head coach Ashley Brown commented: “This was a big day for league in Sweden and the right direction for growing the sport here, especially in the capital city area which has a large and strong skilled base of players.”
Stockholm won 24-22 and according to Wikander: “There were positives, with a lot of the boys playing their first-ever game of rugby league. As the match wore on they started getting the hang of the new sport.”
“There were some outstanding players on display especially Måns Derk who scored a hat trick with his damaging runs and also was solid in defence while Alexander Rappestad also ran the ball well. We encourage anyone in the area to come and try rugby league in Stockholm and Södertälje.”
The national side under Brown has already had two get-together training sessions and is confident about overcoming the Danes and setting up a home Nordic Cup decider against Norway on August 30th in Lund.