By Jeremy Darke
Five years ago, Australia Rules Football was unknown to Hampus Olsson, just like it still is for most Swedish people. But after his first touch of that unusual oval-shaped ball, just after the 2009 season, he was then hooked for life.
Hampus has proven to be the biggest up-and-coming talent within Sweden, impressing so much when in the limelight that he was awarded a position in the European Legion in their recent contest with the Australian Institute of Sport AFL School Boys, in London in April.
At the age of just 21, Olsson has now become one of the key figures in the Swedish Elks team heading into the International Cup 2014, the young footy gun stepping up his game off the field to move into a leadership role with the team.
Olsson has come a long way since the first offseason between the 2009 and 2010 season, where he spent hours upon hours, watching Auskick videos on YouTube to learn correct technique in anticipation of taking the field for his debut.
After that nerve-wracking day he has never looked back, but it wasn’t just the hard-hitting physicality of AFL that he fell in-love with, it was the Aussie mateship and camaraderie that the sport embezzles within its roots.
“AFL is fast, hard and skilful, but what really made me continue was the sportsmanship between players, as well as the fans,” said Hampus Olsson. “It is the toughest sport on the field but everyone can shake hands, smile and have a chat afterwards.”
“In my first match, even though I was new, I was given chance after chance, my teammates really wanted me to have a crack while I was playing my first game, giving me a lot of easy goals.
“That particular day also scared me in a good way and made me fall in-love with the sport, making me want to do whatever it took to get better.
And got better he certainly did, working so hard in his early development years that he made the Swedish Elks squad that travelled to Australia for the International Cup in 2011, in just his second full season of AFL footy.
The International Cup 2011 experience only made the bond stronger between Olsson and the sport of Aussie Rules, the European Legion representative saying that it was his best footy experience yet.
“The two weeks we had in Sydney, living across the street from Manly beach in apartments with a view of the lot, and getting to play footy at the same time was the best ever.”
Three years on, the Swedish Elks and Hampus Olsson are now preparing for another International Cup, although this time the bustling midfielder will have more than just his own game on his mind as he takes the step up into the leadership group within the team.
Elks Coach Dan McClaer has recognised and developed the potential of Hampus Olsson whilst in the national team and now believes that the time is right to move him into a leadership role, an honour that doesn’t faze the mature, young gun.
“My on-field game will stay the same as always. It shouldn’t change for any given reason, because you should always play at your top level every game,” explained Olsson.
When asked how he will lead his team and guide his players, Olsson said he will just try to set the example for all of the younger players in the Elks.
“Talk, show and listen. Lead by example and have fun no matter what we are doing, it is easier to learn more if you have fun while you are learning.”
The Elks will be looking to improve on their 11th placing in IC11, when they head to Australia in August for IC14, but the important thing for the Swedish team will be to take in the whole experience and make sure that they all give it a good Aussie crack.
“My goals and expectations for the IC and the Elks are pretty high. We’re a good team coming down.”
“But the most important part for me and the team is that we all have a real crack at it.
“So when we all come home we can talk about our trip to Australia, and all the fun we had, for the next three years, as I still do about my last trip three years ago.”