Jonathan Briscoe of the Södermalm Blues marks in front of his Bromma Vikings opponent
Australian Rules Football has been played in Sweden ever since 1993, when a team from Helsingborg competed in the Danish Australian Football League. The game has been growing steadily ever since and this weekend the Stockholm region Australian Football Federation (the SAFF) kicks off its 11th season.
Australian Rules Football (not soccer, not rugby) is Australia’s indigenous game and has an international reputation for its unique mix of skill and physical exertion (or should we say, carnage). The Stockholm league began in 2004 with ex-pat Australians creating teams and encouraging locals to participate.
The SAFF now comprises 5 teams; the Bromma Vikings, Norrtälje Dockers, Solna Axemen, Södermalm Blues and the Årsta Swans. And in a sign of its growing appeal, a 6th team, the Uppsala Hammers, has been granted interim membership of the SAFF in 2014 and will spend this season playing practice matches against the other teams as it prepares for full membership next year.
Under the auspices of AFL Sweden, a national team from Sweden also competes in the International Cup, an event held in Melbourne every three years featuring countries from all parts of the world. This year, 9 players from the SAFF will represent the Swedish Elks; Natis Johansson (Södermalm), Fredrik Rydbert and Oscar Magnusson (Solna Axemen), Max Skärlén, Albert Bergström and Buster Sund (Norrtälje Dockers) and Dan Koinberg, Mattis Kvarnström and Jonas Birgén (Årsta Swans). Best of luck boys!
To ensure Stockholm continues to feed the national team with home-grown talent, children are also being encouraged to participate, with many of the teams of the SAFF organizing Auskick programs throughout the season, in which SAFF players take the younger generation through a series of drills to teach them the basics of the game.
But perhaps the strongest advertisement of the game’s endurance in Stockholm will be on display this weekend when the SAFF celebrates the first player in its history to play 100 games – a feat achieved by veteran Södermalm Blues full-back, Lars Hagberg.
Hardly a game has been played since 2004 that ‘Larry’ has not been involved in, either as a player, coach or official. His contribution to the game has already been immortalised with the annual prize for the best & fairest player in the SAFF being awarded the Lars Hagberg Medal. Lars has been a prominent player for the Södermalm Blues since their inception in 2007, including their Premiership in 2009. Prior to representing the Blues, Lars was a foundation player for the Copenhagen Crocodiles in the Danish League.
The game was quick to catch Larry’s eye.
“The first time I was exposed to the game I thought it was the most exciting sport I’d ever seen and I just wanted to try it,” he told YLC.
“The things that attracted me back then are the same reasons I’m still playing. It is a fast and thrilling game. I like the full contact part of the game but it’s not just about being big since there are so many other elements to the sport; speed, agility, courage, reading the play and team work.”
One of the highlights of Larry’s career was representing Sweden at the International Cup.
“To walk onto the oval representing your country, playing Australian Rules Football in Australia, is an amazing feeling,” he said.
Round 1 of the SAFF kicks off this coming Saturday 3rd May with a triple header at Skarpnäck Sportfält, the home of the Södermalm Blues Football Club. The Australian Ambassador will be in attendance to participate in a short ceremony to commemorate Anzac Day and to toss the coin before one of the games. The Footy Record will be on sale and, of course, there’ll be a BBQ! For full details of the SAFF, including the fixture and contact details, click on this link, or email [email protected].
The Solna Axemen with their Premiership cup last season
See you at the footy!
Rob Scott is a writer, teacher and poet who can’t remember anything that happened in his life before the birth of his daughter seven years ago. We think he might like Aussie Rules Football, but it’s just a hunch.