Norway was possibly one of the surprise choices when the eight nations who will participate in the RLIF Wheelchair Rugby League event which will be held in England in 2021 were announced. However, as Karl-Fredrik Velle, Chair of the interim board at Rugby League Norway explains, this is a part of a grand plan.
"Norway’s men’s team just missed out on progressing to the final stage of qualification when they were defeated by Greece but that campaign brought rugby league to the attention of the public and the government in Norway. The wheelchair squad are now progressing that interest and are trying to work with media and potential sponsors to lay a strong platform for the whole of rugby league to develop."
Rugby League Norway are a part of the wider Norwegian Rugby Federation which houses a variety of sports including Australian Rules Football, Gaelic Football, Rugby Union, Wheelchair Rugby and Rugby League. It has a focus on creating opportunities for people to participate and enjoy sport. In Norway there are approximately 250 Wheelchair players with different levels of disability and the introduction of Wheelchair Rugby League provides a form for wheelchair activity for potentially even more players.
The driving force behind the development of the wheelchair rugby league bid was Erik Baret. He saw the opportunity to include some players who fell outside the classifications for other wheelchair sports and wanted to include more people.
One player who has directly benefitted is one of Norway’s senior players, Martin Farmen who commented,
“This is a dream come true for me as both a person and a player. My biggest goal has always been to represent Norway in a World Cup. When Quad Rugby changed their rule towards disability, I thought every chance had gone away from me, but with the introduction of Wheelchair Rugby League in Norway I can now fulfil my dream.
“I have talked with the other players after the news of the qualification for the World Cup was announced, and we have one thing to say to the world, “the VIKINGS are coming.””
The hard work of preparing for RLWC2021 has already started and over the next two years there will be a series of training camps, and friendly matches against other nations. This will run alongside the domestic competition aimed at increasing participation levels.
Norway’s confirmation as a participant in the RLIF Wheelchair Rugby League is already having an impact on the whole of the sport and is giving rugby league a higher visibility in the Norwegian sporting landscape.
For details about rugby league in Norway contact: