Norway to be a New Rugby League Destination?

By Daniel Andruczyk

Last week, Daniel Andruczyk from Rugby League International scores caught up exclusively with Warren Heilig for Rugby League Review. Warren is the president of the Norwegian Rugby League. Warren is in town on Holidays and to also learn new training techniques from the best of the best – The Brisbane Broncos. Warren has big plans for the sport in Norway, but initially I asked about 2009.

Norway to be Semi-Professional

Norway came a long way in one year with three teams set up domestically and ready to play a domestic competition in 2010. Though its not all smooth sailing with some interference from Rugby Union who feel that League does not deserve to have a spot in the Norwegian sporting Landscape. When asked about this Warren said “My specific aim is to get Norwegians to play the game and not ex-pats” which is something that Union relies upon in Norway. So far this policy has worked with two specific Rugby League teams set up and one that is a Union team that plays league in the off season. When Norwegians play Rugby League they tend have the reaction “We love this game”.

In 2010 Warren has big plans. With a nucleus of a team from last year he wants to extend this by targeting new athletes. That is athletes that have never seen or played any form of rugby and mould them from scratch, similar to what the Ukrainians did. For warren its not all about winning either. He wants to have a National team that the players are proud to play for and that the opposition know that they have played Norway, ”We want to create a hard team, the hardest team you can find. We want the opposition come away knowing that they played Norway despite winning, that future teams know that they have to harden up to play us”.

Warren is also aiming to be included in the European summer tournaments like the European Bowl or European Med. He is not expecting for them to win straight up but its important to start getting experience into the team, to get the young players excited that they are playing for their nation.

When asked about ambitions for the World Cup, Warren is realistic with 2017 qualifications as their aim and in the short term to set up a domestic competition. He says, “We need to have a good domestic competition because without that you can’t have a good national team, Its common sense”. 2010 will see an inaugural 3-team domestic competition. These teams sprung up after the British Pioneers tour last year where. Their work and game against the National team just set the sport on fire and really got the enthusiasm for the sport going. Warren said that “the Pioneers are truly that, Pioneers. The work they do everywhere is so important to the sports development”

Talking to Warren about Scandinavian Rugby League in general, this year the Scandinavian 9’s are in Sweden, Gothenburg on the 10th of April with the 2011 tournament in Denmark. It will rotate through the Scandinavian countries to truly make it a pan-Scandinavian tournament. Warren has done much work in schools as well “With the work done in Norway there are now 200 school kids and teachers that play the sport and on the 1st of may there will be a Scandinavian youth 9’s. I go 1 day a week to schools to teach and play rugby league”.

WarrenDanielWarren Heilig (left) and Daniel Andruczyk (right) with the inaugural 2009 Norwegian National Jersey

Though its not all smooth sailing, with money very tight from all sectors its hard to fund a lot of the work though with help from the RLEF Warren believes Norway can be a success “I have pushed very hard to the RLEF to make me the development officer of Scandinavia. I believe that if we can do that then Scandinavia can become a Rugby League playing Region!” As mentioned Earlier Warren was here not just for a holiday to see family but to spend some time with the Broncos to learn training techniques he can take back to Norway with him “If we want to be the best, we have to learn from the best and the best are the Broncos. So I am here to see what I can learn and take back home to the players”.

All in all Warren has big plans for Norway. Things are going great and he believes that within 5 years they can be Semi Professional – yes you hear right, semi pro “I want the Aussies to have a new option to Play Rugby League”. Only Time will tell how far the Vikings can come along but it seems exciting times are ahead for Norway and Rugby League in general.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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