A New Era Dawns for Danish Vikings
Wednesday, July 12 2006 @ 04:50 pm ACST
Contributed by: Ian Hill
It's been a rocky road for Denmark's national team over the past five years - from an international glamour side to a surprise withdrawal from the International Cup. A new coach is on the case and a new era beckons.
As recently as 2001, the Vikings, Denmark’s national Australian football team, had a good case for being the best in the world outside Australia. Their regular victories against Great Britain had culminated in a gargantuan win in 2000, and they were about to take part in the Atlantic Alliance Cup where they hoped to win a tournament that would anoint them at least unofficial world champions.
They didn’t win it – didn’t even finish second, but came in third and defaulted into the final because the US had to leave early. Although not disgraced against Ireland (who never lost anywhere until the 2005 IC), it was clear that things would never be the same again. They came a creditable fourth in the 2002 IC, beat Great Britain again at home in 2003, before drawing with a half-Australian Swedish side last year and then withdrawing from the 2005 IC due to lack of funds.
The squad had stagnated. It was still a very good group of players, but several were approaching or over 30 and the team had become somewhat of an entity of its own distinct from the Danish Australian Football League – at least one player in the 2005 match (played on June 11) had played no DAFL club games for the year to that point.
At the beginning of the 2006 season, Stuart Wynn, who had coached the side since 2000, decided to stand down from the position. Replacing him is Jim Campion, the man who has put DAFL on the map with the juniors he has developed in Farum. It might be somewhat odd to see the face associated with juniors for so long suddenly heading DAFL’s representative senior side, but the juniors in Farum started way back in 1998 so many of the current senior players have come through the ranks as kids, and it shows, with Farum the reigning premiers and runaway leaders at the summer break of 2006.
Not only the leadership is changing. Campion has made no secret of the fact that youth will be key. A high level of fitness will be required and no consideration will be taken to age and while at the same time the younger players will have to prove their maturity. Players as young as 16 years old, are under consideration for 2008 IC selection. The result of that is the start of some serious turnover in the faces and names in a healthy squad of 35 players competing for a position.
Fund raising and planning is already underway to ensure the best possible preparation and a well-organized tour to Australia in 2008. With the close contact and relations between Denmark and Geelong FC we will be proposing to the AFL that Geelong be the sponsor club for the Danish Vikings during the International Cup.
As for 2006, the Danes have joined up with Sweden and Germany to play a three way series of full international matches. Denmark will play Germany in Bielefeld, Germany on August 19, before playing host to Sweden in Farum on September 30. The three-way concept gives each country one home and one away game per year with hopefully not too much need for travel, and is an excellent forum for the teams to prepare for the 2008 IC, should that be their aim.
Campion is not expecting miracles from what will be a very new team in the red and white this year, but he is hoping to put the Vikings back on the path to respectability and eventually to Melbourne in two years’ time. Real results are expected in 2012 when the majority of current juniors have reached full maturity.
The current Vikings squad is listed here.