1998 saw the Vikings and Air Gunn take over the championship trophy from the seemingly unbeatable Vålerenga Trolls. But Gunn is gone and the Trolls have lost many of their best players. So who will step up ? Eidsvoll ? Nidaros ? No, its another year of Oslo domination.
OT Ola Sprauten of the Vikings
OSI Vikings are looking for a repeat. In fact, if they don't manage to do it, they will be the first team in Norway not to do it, at any level ! But Vikings fans beware. Coach Gunn has left town, Center and best Norwegian offensive lineman Richard Jansen now plays for newcomers Nidaros Domers, DL Christian Paulsboe will not be playing due to an operation earlier this year. On the positive side; David Rødsand had an off year in '98. He will definitely be a bigger part of the offense this year. QB Dennis Johansson is ready for his 2nd year at the Norwegian senior level; he now adds experience. LBs André Nesset & Ole Petter Nyhaug, out in '98 with injuries, are back. Fredrik Nanhed, the presumably best European running back, is in the starting line-up. New HC Chris Gavreau looks like a good signing. After all, things don't look so bad. TNFJ thinks the Vikings has what it takes to repeat.
Eidsvoll 1814s stormed on to the 1st division scene last year. Beating Arendal and Sandnes - two perennial 1st division bottom teams - and barely missing out on the champ'ship game with an overtime loss to eventual champs OSI. Was '98 a fluke accident ? TNFJ doesn't think so. In addition to last year's squad, there is a new boss in town. HC Jan "Janne" Johansson leads his first team on the senior level. He is dedicated, enthusiastic and demanding. With the response he has gotten from the 1814s players, there is no way this team will be run over by anybody. But beware of a possible sophomore slump...
Vålerenga Trolls shockingly lost in the champ'ship game in '98. Everybody expected them to win. Finally, after winning 5 in a row, the streak ended. It was a good thing for Norwegian football, and a wake up call for the Trolls. They have to start functioning on the organizational level. Without good recruiting (they in fact lost their best receiver, Adam Manaf, to the Vikings) and without a junior program they are doomed. Unless the Trolls take the consequenses of this very soon, they will lose the grip. Luckily they signed a HC who doesn't play (last year's HC did); Olof Sundberg. Sundberg is the structured disiplinarian this team needs. The Trolls may look a bit out of touch in '99, but they will be back in old fashion within 2 years. Promise !
Nidaros Domers are in the 1st division for the first time. To stay ? Don't think so. Everybody hopes that they can produce what the Wildcats and Oilers couldn't do last year: A team. But they have a tough assignment. Reportedly practises have been going well, and the team has a decent amount of players. Rumours have also leaked out about some talented ones, like speedy WR Eyvind Fossbakk and swift RB Sindre Veland. The Domers have signed a couple of Finnish players and brought over an American. And C Richard Jansen comes over from the Vikings. But a wishbone offense ? Hmm...Nidaros better bring some big linemen with them, because you cannot run the wishbone effectively when your team is smaller than the average team in the league. Or can you ? We'll see.
Nidaros Domers, newcomers in the 1st
Sandnes Oilers got physically abused in the 1st division last year, even by fellow strugglers Arendal Wildcats (who actually was the biggest and most physical team in the league). Oilers are looking to rebound after several years where the team has just gotten worse and worse and...you get the point. There are some bad elements that simply must be dealt with. Sandnes also gets two playmakers back from the army; FB Cato Wallin and WR Svein Martin Dahle. This is year one.
Arendal Wildcats have been around for some time. They have been too big for the boys in the 2nd division, and too small for the men of the 1st division. Actually, they are about the biggest team around when you look at size. They just don't have that many players, and so far hasn't had coaches on the sideline. TNFJ has also heard that they lose a lot of people in front of the '99 season, but they have also added a lot of new players. This will be a team looking to find a new image. They may or may not find it in 1999.
Bergen Storm must rise from the ashes. A former 1st division side with a -for Norwegian teams- long history, they have had some rough years since the mid 90s. Internal problems have made them kill themselves. If they can finally find a board that works as a unit and a club without several fractions fighting eachother they could rise again. The reports from Bergen tell us things are looking better than in many years. Veterans from the early days of Bergen football are back, and so is the faith.
What can Hamar(blue) and Bærum(green) do ?
Hamar Ruins is starting to grow into adulthood. Bringing in a paid American for the first time, expect them to jump several notches up from what they were last year. The Ruins are just a few years away from being a team that can challenge for a spot in the 1st division. Expect them to be among the top two in their group.
OSI Vikings 2 already are part of a winning club. And they have plenty of players. Last year they -surprisingly- suffered through poor organization. This time around the Vikes have brought in former Kodiaks coach Paul Parlett as HC, and the coaching staff numbers 6 people. This team could end up anywhere from the middle to the top of their division.
Bærum Blue Devils has a promising coaching staff in Blake Miller (Head Coach) and Bob O'Connor plus a couple of Player/Coaches. But with few players and small resources they still have a long way to go, although there is certainly no lack of experience. Many of the team's players are from the Asker Lynx, a now defunct team that was a force to be reckoned with in the early 90s.
Lillehammer Wolfpack was the rookie team in '98. And they learned along the way. 1999 will be a new learning experience. Don't expect the pack to make an impact on the league just yet. Lillehammer will sweep the floors for the rest of this century and possibly a couple of years into the next before they become competitive. Internal problems have hurt them in the past, but that's hopefully history now.
Kolbotn Kodiaks once was a 1st division team. Then they got knocked down by the Oilers. Kolbotn has been struggling to get back ever since. According to themselves, they are happy just being in the 2nd division, although we suspect they would like to get back up in the top. With some decent recruiting and an organization around the team, they can get there. But thats a looong way down the road.
Wildcats on the sideline
|OSI Vikings||1||Remains top team until proven otherwise|
|Eidsvoll 1814s||2||On the rise, but watch out for sophomore slump|
|Vålerenga Trolls||3||Retirement finally hits them hard|
|Nidaros Domers||4||Wishbone boys must bang heads with the men|
|Sandnes Oilers||5||Tries to follow in footsteps of junior program|
|Arendal Wildcats||6||Big & brutal|
|Hamar Ruins||7||Ready to take the next step in a year or two|
|OSI Vikings 2||8||Energetic HC helps team spirit get high|
|Bergen Storm||9||Comeback is going to take some time|
|Bærum Blue Devils||10||Solid coaching staff, but too few players|
|Lillehammer Wolfpack||11||'98 rookies are better, but will still struggle|
|Kolbotn Kodiaks||12||Being a Kodiak is hard these days...|