Contributed by: Aaron Richard
Like the Lund Bulldogs who briefly appeared in the mid-90s, the Lund Magpies have struggled with both playing numbers and off-field issues in their history, difficulties with finding a field meaning they never even got to play a home match inside the city of Lund. The Magpies recently announced they would fold for this season, but nearby Landskrona will see a strengthened Bulldozers side playing as a self-sufficient entity in the Scania league this year. Further north, the Karlstad Dragons are Sweden's newest team, and the first in the region of Värmland. One of the Dragons' founders, Jörg Pareigis, talks to WFN about the club's development so far.
This year will see a three-way SAFL Regional Championship between the Gothenburg Berserkers, Skåne Griffins and Stockholm Dynamite, with each team playing each other once. The Scanians have the longest history of playing footy in Sweden, and have usually held the upper hand in recent matches, but their matches against Stockholm always ignite some fierce rivalry and the Dynamite will be eager to show they are equal to the Scanians.
The Scania league will consist of four teams, Malmö Red Eyes, GV Malmö, Helsingborg West Raptors and Landskrona Bulldozers, feeding into two teams in the DAFL Premier League - the South Sweden Saints and Port Malmö Maulers.
Karlstad lies in central Sweden, on the main freeway between Stockholm and the Norwegian capital Oslo. The team was founded by a group of four - Swede Joel Språng, German Jörg Pareigis and Australians Kevin Anderson and Darren Gleeson.
Pareigis moved from Germany to Malmö, Sweden around three years ago to live with his Swedish partner and started a course in Swedish for beginners. Also taking the course was expat-Australian Ricky Nolan, coach for Port Malmö Maulers in 2004 who told Pareigis about Aussie Rules and the good social side of the club. Being new to the city and country, this was exactly what he was looking for. He hadn't ever really heard anything about footy before, but was quite sure that he could pick it up - and he became quickly hooked, winning Rookie of the Year for the Maulers in a premiership season.
In his second year of playing footy, he was practicing with and playing for the Danish national team, hoping to make it to the 2005 International Cup. Despite the Vikings' IC campaign ultimately falling through, 2006 saw Pareigis finally able to take the field for his native Germany in the tri-series against Denmark and Sweden.
Having recently moved to Karlstad, Pareigis tells us "from the beginning I had the idea to start a team here, having Port Malmö as an example in mind - combining this great sport with a very good club and social side to it. During the summer, Mark White got a message from Kevin Anderson, an Aussie who was about to move to Karlstad as well, which he did just before Christmas.
"We got in touch and decided to meet in the Irish pub "The Leprechaun" and bring anyone that is interested. There were eight of us with some more interested players missing. At the same time, without me knowing, Joel Språng, brother to Gothenburg ARFC founder Martin, set up a homepage, stating that he wanted to start a team in town as well.
"Two and a half weeks later, Kevin, Darren Gleeson (another Aussie), Joel and I met in "The Leprechaun" again and "officially" formed the "Karlstad Dragons", with me as the president, Kevin as the Coach and Darren and Joel assisting him. Then we contacted the University Sports organization, which provided us with gym time. For the outdoor season, we are in touch with the local rugby club, which has very nice facilities.
"The goal for this year is to play as many games as possible. We already have two dates set, 20th of May against Stockholm and 26th of May against Malmö, both here in Karlstad. During the spring, we will also make a trip down to Malmö and hopefully participate in the Sheep Station Cup. Other potential matches are against Gothenborg, Oslo (if there is really a team there) and Falun (Cameron Crooks is about to form a team there).
"At the same time, my hope is that there will be rather soon an official Swedish governing body similar to DAFL or AFLG with some local leagues and hopefully as well a national league or cup. Then, in a long term perspective, a junior team in Karlstad would be desirable. But first of all, we need to get more players and play our first match."
All those watching the burgeoning Swedish footy scene would certainly wish the Dragons well - maybe part of a powerful International Cup campaign in 2008 for the Swedish Elks.
World Footy News