Norwegian Rugby League internationals Dan Horne and Daniel Daatland have quite a lot in common. They almost share a first name, they went to school together in Norway, they played together at Sandnes Raiders and now study politics together at Newcastle University.
Another thing that links them is their interesting back-stories. That is, however, they where they differ entirely. Horne hails from Ulverston, in Cumbria and qualifies for the Norwegian national side through residency.
Daatland, by way of contrast, spent his formative years globetrotting around the world. His Norwegian heritage runs very much through his veins, with stints living in some exotic destinations.
“I was born in Hungary and my dad’s Norwegian,” Daatland explained. “My mum works in oil and we moved around to where the oil was. We’ve lived in Azerbaijan, Singapore and Turkey because of her work. We eventually moved back to Norway.
“Moving around so much was really exciting and we got to see a bunch of different things. The only problem was that you had to make a bunch of friends and then move on. When I moved back to Norway, I went to the British International School and that was where I met Dan.
“We’ve got quite an unlikely friendship. In the British International School the classes were quite small, there was about five lads in the class. We have a lot of the same interests in rugby and politics and great chat, if I say so myself.”
As Horne recalled: “I convinced Daniel to come down to play for the local club, Sandnes Raiders. I’d played for Ulverston and Askam, back home, until I moved here. My dad worked at the gas terminal in Barrow and there’s a lot of that industry in Norway.
“Just by chance, my dad worked with a guy from Saddleworth who was married to a Norwegian. Pete Haigh he’s called, a few his family have sons played Rugby League for Norway.
“They had kids in Norway and they wanted them to play Rugby League. This Norwegian guy had set up a team right near us and we started playing for them, Sandnes Raiders. I was 14-years-old and playing in the men’s league in Norway, but I was probably one of the most experienced players.”
Horne’s Rugby League experience is much more clearly mapped out than Daatland’s, with the latter playing rugby union on his travels. And while Horne also had play the 15-man code upon his arrival to Norway, the pair would represent the country in Rugby League together.
Horne debutised against Poland, in August 2018, a 76-0 win in Poland’s first ever international. Daatland would then join the party for Poland’s first home fixture, a 68-0 demolition by Norway. A far cry, it must be said, from Daatland’s first taste of the oval-shaped ball.
“In Azerbaijan, there’s a big British community who work for BP,” explained Daatland. “Originally, I started playing rugby union with them and we did tournaments in Dubai, which were sevens. In Norway, the Rugby League scene was more developed and Dan told me to come down to the local Rugby League team.
“When I was travelling around, I never thought I’d ever represent Norway in anything. It’s a real honour for me. When we went to Poland together, it was a good opportunity to meet some of the national team players and I have no doubt we’ll be part of the set-up in the future. I scored three tries against Poland which was amazing for me.”
Despite not coming from Norwegian stock, Horne shares similar sentiments in his representation of the country. The two were unfortunately unable to feature in the 52-26 defeat to Greece in the final
stages of 2019 World Cup qualifiers, due to university, but flew the flag proudly in their respective outings.
“I’ve learned the language and I feel an immense amount of pride,” Horne said. “You’re around people who are really passionate about the country and I’ve spent a large period of my life here.
“I really understand the culture now and I love singing the national anthem. It’s rare that you get to represent a country and it really bonds you with the nationality.”
In that side against Greece, ex-pats would play a leading role with notable names including Nathan Cummins, brother of Australian rugby union international Nick, and Sonny Mellor, a New Zealander with only half a left arm.
“I hope to see Rugby League develop more in Norway,” Daatland said. “If it weren’t for the Coronavirus, I’m sure the season would be booming. We were one game away from the World Cup which was huge.
“That was great for the national team. Expats have a really important role for us, they have really pushed us on. Dan’s dad, for example, if it wasn’t for him our local club wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is now. He’s let the locals take over now and taken a step back and that’s what we need ex-pats to do all over the world.”
Daatland has found himself on the flip-side during his first year at Newcastle University, studying politics alongside Horne, while playing for the Rugby League team. The pair joined the university at the same time, as their unlikely friendship has continued closer to home for Horne.
“We didn’t plan to come to university together,” Horne said. “He stayed at my house and we did a training camp in Saddleworth. While we were there, we visited Leeds and Newcastle University. We both applied for them and we ended up getting both on the same course.
“I got to university and I signed up for the Rugby League team and it’s such an interesting group of lads. I’m still planning to play for Sandnes, I was going to play before the lockdown.
“A few of my mates wanted to come over from University and stay at mine and play a few games. I was considering going down to Wallsend and I’d love to go full-circle and play for Askam again.”
Daatland added: “Newcastle is a lovely place and some of the Northern culture is a bit strange to me. I had the opportunity to visit Newcastle and stay at his house and that was really cool. It was a gorgeous place with lots of beautiful architecture and I’ve loved my time here so far.”