Originally involved with rugby league in Australia before moving to Sweden in 2009, Ryan Tucker wanted to get back into a sport. He couldn’t find a league side in Stockholm but did find the Södermalm Blues Australian Football club and has been hooked on Australian Football ever since.
The main reasons behind picking up a new sport like Australian Football was so Ryan could try something new.
Initially, learning the skills and knowledge of the game was a challenge, but he says the speed of the game and the concept of continual play was something that really appealed to him.
In 2012, he joined up with some other friends to set up the Norrtälje Dockers, where he took on the role of president for four years. Last year, he returned as the secretary but has played and coached the team since 2012.
During this period the Dockers and Ryan have had plenty of success, organising two Swedish Cup’s, winning a Swedish Cup in 2018, played in the 2017 Champions League and winning a premiership in 2016.
The Dockers once again competed in the 2019 Champions League and will be hosting the 2019 Euro Cup.
Furthermore, he coached the Elks at the 2016 Euro Champs, before being elected as a commission member with AFL Europe in 2017.
It’s not just playing, coaching or volunteering that have kept Ryan busy in footy, he was a team manager with Sweden for the 2014 International Cup in Melbourne.
A busy man, who loves the game, has even adopted a new format of the sport to deal with weather conditions in Sweden. “I enjoy the fact that the sport can be altered to fit different levels of participation and here in Sweden we have gone a step further and created an indoor game,” he said.
On a larger scale, he has big plans for AFL Sweden. “The biggest long-term goal for AFL Sweden is to become a recognised sport,” he said. “To apply we need to grow our club numbers to 25 and member base to 1500 members.”
As is the case with Australian Football across the globe, the Women’s game is getting bigger each year. For cities such as Stockholm and Norrtälje, there is a market there which Ryan is hoping to tap into.
“I think Australian Football in Europe will continue to grow and mostly on the women’s side. Once we have fully functioning senior divisions, the juniors will follow,” he said.
A more personal goal for Ryan in his position on the AFL Europe commission is to get the Northern European section to become more involved with the main European tournaments through playing, coaching or organising events like this year’s Euro Cup in Norrtälje.
To help strengthen that section of Europe when it comes to Australian football, Ryan believes that seeing tighter bonds forming between European clubs and local clubs in Australia will help grow numbers.
It could also enable an exchange of players between clubs and those experiences will help raise awareness of the sport across Europe.
Ryan has become a big part of the game in Europe with his commitment to his clubs and AFL Sweden since he began in 2009. This year is a big year for him, with Norrtälje hosting the Euro Cup in June, but it’s an opportunity for him to achieve his goals in growing the game he loves.