Alt for Norge! Norway defeat Iceland in first Australian football game between the two nations

Kurt in action. Photo Haukur Þór Lúðvíksson

(All photos of the game are courtesy of Haukur Þór Lúðvíksson)

I’m hunched in a tiny Iceland Air economy seat at 39000 feet. My legs are like creaky wooden planks, my elbows and knees are bruised and I am tired to the point of dribbling on myself. There are dried white clumps of mud from the blue lagoon pasted all over my sunglasses.

Where do you start when describing a weekend like that? Australian football is a game that until recently was confined to a very localised area of the world. Growing up with they game, you learn as a kid, play at the oval down the street and as you get older, maybe drive across town to take on teams from the other suburbs. It felt exotic to play on the other side of Melbourne.

Of the thousands of people who have pulled on a pair of boots to play this game, who has done what we did on the weekend? Who has played on a pristine square of grass surrounded by volcanic rocks and lava fields, in front of soaring mountain ranges, cinder cones and impromptu flybys from local bi-plane pilots? Playing for a national team. In the first ever match between two countries. With their own camera crew, team bus and photographers. And a recovery session in the blue lagoon.

It was a real game of footy, and nothing can discount how memorable, unique and enjoyable it was. THIS was the sort of game that will come to mind in 30 years when someone asks you if you used to play sport.

And it wasn’t just the game that was memorable, but the whole experience. Flying to a place that felt like another planet. Having drinks and laughs together after (and even before) the game. Meeting some people we would never have met before, including guys like Fritz, who it must be said, has done an amazing job promoting Australian football. Getting a chance to promote our game on TV. The list goes on.

So what about the game?

Pre game

Pre game. Photo Haukur Þór Lúðvíksson

First, respect to Iceland for playing the way they did. Not a single Australian player among them, and a few guys who were very new to the game. On paper, they were at a clear disadvantage against a team with lots of experienced players and someone just coming off a big international tournament.

But they were alright. At times they were much better than just alright. That second quarter was a lesson in how to get in after the football and play the contested footy. Had they been able to keep that intensity it would have been a much closer result. With more fitness and more experience there will absolutely be victories in the future for that team.

To beat them took a big effort, and we were up to the challenge. Every player of our 18 did a job, and contributed to the win.

Kicking into the wind, it all began with a bang when Kurt wheeled around and slotted a tough shot on the first opportunity of the day. It was an amazing goal and a great opening statement of intent. It was a shame he then took a knock to the knee and was slowed for the rest of the contest.

The supply that led to his goal and to many others was our stellar midfield. Rene, Adam, Amund, Todd, Luddy and Adam O’Toole were core parts of a midfield rotation that consistently cleared the ball and drove it forward. Rene must have had 30 kicks for the day, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed at the post match function when he was named best player on the ground.

The Norwegian defence was tested early on and was largely up to the challenge. At quarter time we had conceded only one goal and kicked another two, opening up a two goal lead. We were eagerly awaiting our go at kicking with the breeze.

Strangely that opportunity never really came. In Iceland they say ‘If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change’. True to form, the strong wind vanished as we started the second quarter. A few rotations either distracted or destabilised us slightly, and there was a noticeable lift in intesity from the Ravens all around the ground. The Icelandic players fought for the hard ball and won it more and more as the quarter wore on, and at the half it was only a six point ball game.

Stars Adam Pearce and Todd Dunn were now injured as well, and suddenly a game that had felt comfortably under control was anything but. At half time Adam Pearce and David Stone  implored Norway to take after the example of Rene, Brightbard, Trevor and Tobias and match the attack on the ball they showed. Brightbard in particular had worn a heavy knee to the kidneys in a courageous marking effort. Everyone knew that the first goal of the third quarter was critical.

Spurred by the thought of winning for Norway, the team lifted in the third and did manage to kick the first goal. Cosso and Adam O’Toole were busy around the ground, and Amund was now providing a target up forward. Brett, Stoney and Trevor held firm and denied the Icelanders when they ventured forward.

Post game. Photo Haukur Þór Lúðvíksson

Freed up to roam further up the ground, Fridtjof Denneche began to find more of the footy, and TV tourist Henrik Elvestad was legitimately earning his kicks. Suddenly the margin was comfortable again.

In the end fitness became a factor and pleasingly, our team of Trolls had more left in the tank. Rene continued his tireless work, Luddy and Arne remained busy up forward and a dubious free kick led to the TV highlight of the day as Henrik scored a goal for his national team. Chaos ensued.

The final margin was a comfortable 33 points, but the game never stopped being a real contest.

Final scores –

Norway 9.7.61

Iceland 4.4.28

The contest was played in great spirit, and umpired expertly by Ben MacCormack from the AFL.

Post match the teams assembled for a meal and a drink, which was yet another credit to Iceland Fritz and his organising skills.

The team disappeared into the night to see what the Reykjavik nightlife had to offer, and it didn’t disappoint. On a weekend that featured the Northern lights, perfect weather, a great game and some good laughs, a trip to the Blue Lagoon was the final stop.

The experience of the game and the weekend will hopefully encourage everyone to keep promoting the game. Every time a new Norwegian learns and likes the game is another step closer to an all Norwegian team competing against the world.

Huge thanks to Anette, who did an amazing job with injuries, management, running water and even coaching. Thanks also to Adam for the work organising the trip, Amund for arranging hotels, and to everyone who helped made the weekend such a great trip.

Luddy and the flags. Photo Haukur Þór Lúðvíksson

Just for fun, here is a summary of the Norwegian Troll team that took down the Ravens of Iceland.

1 Fridtjof – A natural footballer. For someone who hasn’t played long, has a real feel for the game. Was impressive once he moved up from the backline. Good guy too – definitely welcome on any footy trip!

2 Stoney – Looked the fool in his XXL jumper and inexplicably high pants, but played a solid game. Rebounded the ball well out of the back line. One half of ‘the unbeatable table soccer team’ with Fridtjof

3 Brett – The Brett factor played a far better game than the stats sheet would show. Was never beaten by his opponent, and made key spoils and stops. Drank more beer in the blue lagoon than anyone and ate a whole chicken on the way there. Was a factor.

4 Mal – The doc looked a little strange without his customary thermal pants, but he managed to play a strong game. Did everything right on the field, and was fun footy trip guy to boot. Top effort by the doc

5 O’Toole – Quality player, and quality user of the ball. Played well and held his own against a much taller ruckman. Quote of the trip ‘that church is a rocket ship that everyone will ride to heaven when Jesus comes back’.

6 Todd – Best long low kick in the northern hemisphere. Fought off injury to rack up quality possession after quality possession. Will be missed in Sweden. Safe travels back to Aus and good luck with Todd (or Toddette) junior!

7 Tobias – Typically fearless, and added much needed hardness around the ball. Sometimes the intensity levels resulted in over enthusiastic tackles (and free kicks), but that part of his game will improve. Consistently hilarious for the rest of the trip, with comical outfits, pirate dances, lost wallets, and bear hugs that turned into accidental body slams. Quality effort from start to finish

8 Amund – A very good ruckman, and a good team man. The type of guy who will think to call you up so you can come outside and see the Northern lights. Played well all day long, and has impressive ground skills for a man his size. Amused the AFL contingent with his Australian accent.

9 Andy – Excellent performance in his first game for Norway. Kicked a goal, led well into space and got more of the ball around the ground than in previous performances. A great addition to the team.

10 Rene – Best on ground. Racked up a huge number of touches, and repeatedly hurt the opposition with his clearance work. Has a great workrate and ability to keep finding the football. Performed well post-match as well. Seems to be thriving without his moustache.

11 Adam – Silk department. A born footballer. Almost unfair to let him play against these teams. Even with injuries he managed to control the game when he needed to. Age does not weary him

12 Henrik – The X factor of the trip. Would he play properly? Would he be any good? Was he a good guy? Answered all three questions with a resounding yes. Did his part, played as hard as he could and was good fun to have on the trip. Being on his show will be a huge boost for us. Counter point – He seems to have stolen the yellow footy I loaned him at training.

13 Luddy – Possibly best on trip. Played a good game, which could have been a very good game had a few more marks stuck. Makes a great double act with Tobias, and became the first guy to ever injure himself on a footy trip by putting mud into his own eyes. Great work

14 Kurt – Played an amazing first five minutes and looked set for a 10 goal haul, but the cruel football gods intervened and crippled him with a knee injury. Always tremendous value on a football trip, he didn’t let anybody down.

15 Trev – Hard as nails at the ball and at the man. Tackled, spoiled, and never took a backward step. Well played

16 Cosso – Quietly racked up a heap of touches. Played on at all costs, sometimes to his own detriment. Still – another class performance. Needs to work on his Norwegian – his pronounciation of the word ‘snakker’ was the worst any of us had ever heard

17 Arne – Continues to bob up with his trademark one grab marks, he put in another good effort for his country. Top effort once again.

18 Brightbard – Stayed in style at his pimp palace, and put himself under an injury cloud by sampling a few local liquids the night before the game. Impressively, he turned it around and played a very good game. Dedicated, skilled and adept at getting the footy, was an asset.

19 Anette – Did a phenomenal job as always and also did what everybody else wanted to do – she yelled at the GoPro camera guy and told him to get off the ground

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Comments

  1. Martin Peters says:

    Good stuff!

  2. Seriøst? Ante ikke at det finnes Australsk fotball i Norge! Fantastisk gøy. However, dere kunne kanskje kalt dere for Oslo Eagles i stedet… 😉

Trackbacks

  1. […] You can read more about the game in dinlokalavis.no or at Oslo Crows’ blog […]

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