International Focus: Germany

Where did the inspiration come from to bring rugby league to Germany?

I got bored and frustrated, playing Rugby Union in Germany and whilst at the Rotterdam 9s in 2004, I spoke to Ian Thompson of the Dutch Rugby League, who encouraged me to try and get the game going in Germany

Who was involved in the setting up of your organisation, and who helped from the outside?

Uwe Jansen in Heidelberg and LeoBerngruber in Bad Reichenhall have been with us more or less from the start but also we have people like Lee Grime, Dee Rollinson, Max Froeschner, Dan Stocks, Alix Cross, Nick Mcphail, Derren Bull, Daniel Folgmann, Anthony Seibold, David Griffiths, Regi Rueckerl, Grant Stewart and the Keinhorst Family, amongst others, who are all involved and helping in some way.

Outside help has come from Kevin Rudd and the RLEF and Tas Baitieri. Both Halifax RLFC, Wigan Warriors, Canterbury Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys have sent things across to us here in Germany and is much appreciated by us here. Glenn Mcknight and John Patten from Australia have helped by sending DVDs for the Children and John designed our National Logo.

Was it an uphill struggle to found your organisation?

Its always a struggle trying to start of any business and getting Rugby League started in Germany is the same. You receive many knocks and disappointments. But what keeps you going is the good times like for example, 5 Germans from Bad Reichenhall drive 36 hours to play for Germany against Estonia in Tallinn.

Was there any opposition to it?

There was some people in Rugby Union but generally we have had not too much of a problem. Some people in Rugby Union may see us as a threat but we would rather work with than against anybody.

Has there been a great deal of interest in rugby league from the people of Germany?

To be honest, most people have no idea what Rugby Union is and they have only 102 Clubs after over 110 years of being here. Rugby of either code is mostly unheard of by most Germans. We have alot of interest in Heidelberg-which is the centre of Rugby Union in Germany and also interest in the state of Bavaria/Bayern in the South where myself and Leo Berngruber live.

Are you pleased with how far you have come so far?

Yes to a degree. There are always things that could be done better, but generally we are happy. Most of the work is done by people like Uwe Jansen and Leo Berngruber amongst others rather than just myself. I just help when they need something or ask people like Kevin Rudd for advice on helping these guys.  We had over 300 Kids playing some form of the game in 2006 and that is a great thing to have achieved between us all in Germany.

What are your plans and aims for 2007?

We aim to get 400 U16s playing and involved in Rugby League in Germany. We would like to try and get a domestic league setup in 2008 though this isnt as easy as everybody thinks as Heidelberg is over 6 hours away from Bad Reichenhall by Bus!

We are aiming to become official in Germany but to do this will cost alot of money and time and isnt as easy again as people may think. We just need to be patient and not get to down when things dont happen as fast as we want. People sometimes expect too much from people developing the game and dont fully understand what we are going through and the problems we face.

How far do you think you can go in the near future?

With help from the RLEF, we feel that we can put in place a regular Domestic and International Calendar that everybody will know whats happening in Germany and when each year. Its very hard to say as things can change in a short period of time for better or for worse. Our aim is to have a domestic comp in 2008 and get as many Kids involved as possible.

Where do you see rugby league in Germany in twenty years time?

Hopefully we would be one of the top nations in Europe and be looking to have 30 clubs playing with each having a youth section. Much depends on what we do with the Youth today, as many of them will be playing and hopefully involved in running the game in 15 or 20 years time.

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