To the Norwegian football community and those who follow it from the sidelines :
With the 2001 junior season
nearing it's completion, it might be time to summarize and draw some conclusions. First of
all, lets look at the Junior League as a whole.
The league setup has worked
great, and the conference system has proved it is something that must be considered a
standard to stick by in the future as well (don't care much for the division names,
though...). Obviously, such a system demands that there exists enough teams to make it
work, and that should be our main concern the coming 10 months: We need to keep each and
every one of our junior programs going !
On the field, I'd have to say
that what we've seen quality-wise this season hasn't been overly impressive. That could
have been just me, but unfortunately it's the message I'm hearing from others around the
country too. Hopefully the playoffs will prove us all wrong and we'll be able to see some
spectacular football, but there is no doubt in my mind there has been better junior teams
in past years. However, this has been overshadowed by a more competitive league where many
results have been unpredictable and even puzzling, and this is a very, very
good thing. Finally, Norway has a league where results aren't decided until the 2nd half
has been played !
Let's have a look at the conferences/divisions one by one:
The Big City Division, consisting of the Nordstrand Bandits, Oslo Vikings and Vålerenga Trolls, has been dominated by the Trolls, but the Bandits and Vikings have made it interesting. Both the Trolls and the Vikings were rumoured to being very close to not fielding teams, and the Viking team that travelled to Åsane in the first round with only 8 (!!!) players as well as the postponing of the Trolls' game against Bergen the same weekend did nothing to quiet those rumours. Luckily the rest of the season has proved otherwise, as the Trolls are back in top shape, while the Vikes seem to be on the way up after a rough start. The surprising 14-14 tie between the Oslo Vikings and the Nordstrand Bandits was a turning point for the Vikes, as they've won their games since. The Bandits have made some major strides themselves, and beating the Oilers in Sandnes with only 12 players (against 23) was an unexpected turn of events at the time.
The Sub East Division,
with the Eidsvoll 1814s, Furuset Panthers and Hamar Ruins is quite similar to the
Big City div.: One team dominates, the other two teams provide the excitement result-wise.
The Ruins were one of the favorites before the season started, and have kept that brand
ever since, being unbeaten at this time. It must be said that they've got a tough matchup
against the Trolls still to come, and their narrow victory (14-8) @ home against the
Bergen Storm shows that there won't be an easy path to the championship title this season.
The Eidsvoll 1814s have two games in the "W"-column, although one is a Walk-Over
and the other over rookies Åsane Seahawks in Eidsvoll. Narrow losses to the Furuset
Panthers and the Oslo Vikings proves the 1814s has a junior program on its feet that
hopefully will keep going. It's great to see such a fine program as Eidsvoll get started
on the junior side of things too !
The Wild West Division is, like the others, dominated by one team. Last year's Norwegian champ'ship runner-up Bergen Storm has full control atop of the division, whilst division foes the Sandnes Oilers and the Åsane Seahawks fight for the #2 spot and a shot at the playoffs. The Oilers have probably been the most disappointing team results-wise in the league this year, and for the first time in the history of their junior team (which has been playing since 1995) they face the possibility of missing out on the playoffs. Rookies Åsane Seahawks started off with a victory, and has not won since, although they've been racking up plenty of points and experience along the way. If they start playing like their organization looks from the outside (including the best team website in Norwegian football, despite the lack of links) they'll soon be a force to be reckoned with.
The playoffs are approaching,
and expect to see some very interesting matchups. Although the top three teams - Bergen,
Hamar and Vålerenga - all will have met eachother in league play, results could very well
change with the trophy being only a game away. At the time I'm writing this, the most
likely candidate for the 4th playoff spot is the Nordstrand Bandits, which only needs to
win their final game against the Oslo Vikings to secure the spot. However, a Bandits loss
could open the door for either the Sandnes Oilers or the Oslo Vikings themselves. To make
the playoffs, the Oilers depend on winning their two remaining games and that the Vikes
beat Nordstrand. If the Oilers end up 2-4 (or 1-5...), the Oslo Vikings could take the
spot by beating the Nordstrand Bandits even if they lose against the Trolls on September
29th. A win against the Trolls and against the Bandits would surely hand the final playoff
spot to the Vikings. Theoretically, even the Eidsvoll 1814s or the Furuset Panthers OR the
Åsane Seahawks could make the playoffs, but those chances are too slim to be considered
even remotely realistic.
Together in football,
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