At the culmination of what has been the busiest year for German Rugby League, their progress has been measured with a first trophy, success in the Rugby League European Federation Shield against Norway and Malta. Although all the nations won their home games, the German’s superior points difference gave them the silverware.
National Head Coach Dan Stocks (pictured, in the background) looks back on 2011 with immense satisfaction and no little pride. “A new board was elected, a technical strategy implemented, the first ever domestic competition has taken place and a number of candidates have qualified as coach and match official educators. As a result, the number of volunteers and players has increased, which has allowed for a better quality of player to be selected for the national team,” he notes. “Another first saw Germany host two trial matches against the British Army and Serbia. They served their purpose by providing new players an opportunity to force their way into the national squad, as well as giving our domestic players additional experience at a high level.”
On the Shield campaign he reflects, “The game in Norway wasn’t the result we hoped for. Preparation was good and the players were definitely up for the game, especially walking out at the Bislett international stadium. The Norwegian stand-off Tye Ingebrigsten plays in the Queensland cup and tore our less experienced players apart when they were fatigued. Despite that, our boys continued to compete for 80 minutes and were only beaten by four points. Things were a lot better at home to Malta where we were able to field a stronger team including top try scorer Jimmy Keinhorst – currently at Leeds Rhinos - hard hitting centre Nico Koch and tough second rower Markus Keinhorst who paid his own way to fly over from Canada to play alongside his three brothers.
Everything just seemed to click against Malta,” he says, proudly. “Our huge props Thomas Isaak and Ben Behr-Heyder were physical in both attack and defence and our back rowers Andy Hoggins and Markus Keinhorst did some damage out wide. In addition, our wingers Max Schoengen and Mawuli Amefia got through a lot of work which helped the forwards massively and Christoph Huber did an awesome job in his first outing at full back. It really was a great team effort. There is an enormous amount of satisfaction when you achieve what you are capable of and the players will remember that performance for a very long time. Hopefully we can take that feeling into 2012 and compete on the international stage with the more experienced rugby league nations.”
Winning the European Shield is vindication of the huge amount of hard work and dedication – most of it voluntary – that has seen rugby league firmly establish itself in Deutschland. Stocks continues, “People like Bob Doughton, Dirk Frase, Max Schoengen and Leo Berngruber have made huge contributions. The players and coaches make a number of sacrifices to play for Germany and all pay for their own travel and accommodation because they are both passionate and proud to represent their country.
"Thanks also needs to go out to the many supporters that travel to support the team – parents, partners, family and friends all make the effort to come and cheer the national team on and be part of growing the game in Germany. Development officer Uwe Jansen has been working tirelessly although none of this would have been possible if Simon Cooper hadn’t decided to bring the sport to the nation in 2005. It was so fitting that many of the longest serving players and volunteers were together when they found out that Germany had won the European shield as they were in Schnieverdingen celebrating the marriage of German rugby league founder Simon to his wife Kathi.”