FORMER SADDLEWORTH Rangers’ player Lars Haigh is playing a key role in the development of rugby league in Scandinavia.
The 33-year-old is assistant coach of the Norway’s men’s national team having previously played for them between 2010/12 until injuries ended his playing career.
Lars, whose younger brother Nils also used to play for the Norwegian national team, has seen a massive improvement in the game.
He explained: “Rugby league is only a small sport in Norway, but it is growing. When the national league was formed in 2009, it only had three teams, but today there are seven.
“But such are the distances involved, it is split into two divisions because every away game requires a flight.
“And apart from the men’s team, there is also an U19 national team.”
Lars, a site engineer for a civil engineering firm, added the standard of rugby is far better than it was when he first played in 2010.
He explained: “The standard of the game has improved massively, especially with the Norwegian players.
“They were very green when they started out, but they look like players and most would probably catch the Saddleworth Rangers team.”
Lars, who was a second-row forward, added that there is a drive to improve the game rather than importing foreign players with Norwegian roots.
He continued: “We recently had a national team training camp and of the 26 players only six were ex-pats.
“The rest were Norwegian and there is an emphasis on bringing through home players.”
The national team plays at the iconic Bislet Stadium in Oslo and on June 17 play Sweden in the Nordic Cup. Denmark are also involved in the round-robin tournament.
While Nils no longer plays – he appeared on the wing for Saddleworth Rangers – Norwegian-born mother Anne, from Austerlands, is also involved with the national team in a professional capacity.
“She looks after admin and things like booking hotels, flights, stadium and organising referees and looking after the finances,” explained Lars.
Lars, who until recently also coached the U18s at Saddleworth Rangers, is still involved at the club as his sons Lewis and Enzo play for the U15 and U8 sides.