Unstoppable sisters Kristin, Astrid and Mari aim to raise awareness of rugby in Norway

Youth Unstoppables Kristin, Astrid and Mari have been brought up in an Oslo family where rugby is the number one sport, and the sisters are keen to share their passion for the game.

Sisters Kristin, Astrid and Mari are something of a rarity in Norway, having been brought up in an Oslo household where rugby is the dominant sport.

Rugby is such an important part of family life, in fact, that eldest sibling, Kristin was taken to her first tournament when she was only six days old.

Parents Bronia and Jon-Thomas met through the game, when mum refereed a match dad was playing in, and they have always believed it was important that their daughters maintained a link to the community that brought them together.

In turn, the three siblings have discovered a game that not only provides a connection to their Australian heritage but also allows them to develop valuable skills on and off the pitch.

Both Kristin and youngest sister Mari relish the physical nature of rugby, while Astrid enjoys being part of a team and practising her English and French language skills on the training pitch.

“Rugby is my second family,” Astrid told World Rugby.

“[Being from a family that plays rugby] is quite fun because it makes me feel kind of special.”

Kristin said: “I didn’t really know that I was growing up in a rugby family until I noticed that other people weren’t. 

“I thought everyone grew up in rugby families.”

Raising awareness

However, the siblings admit that their friends and classmates at school can sometimes look on blankly when the subject comes up in conversation, and ask: “what’s rugby?”

That is something they hope to help change by raising awareness of the game in Norway, and each is happy to explain what rugby is and why more of their friends should play.

“I tell them that the ball looks like an American football ball, only you haven't got protection and you can only throw the ball backwards,” Astrid said.

The three sisters had the chance to show their peers exactly what rugby entails recently when their club, Sagene IF, celebrated its centenary.

As part of the celebrations, the various sections that make up Sagene IF got to showcase their sports to an audience of potential new players. 

“The club we play for had a birthday so we were teaching lots of activities,” Mari said. 

And according to Astrid, their pitch went down well with those present. “They thought it was fun,” she added.

Youth rugby in Norway is mixed, is not split into age grades and there is no tackling in matches, meaning that the sisters were able to play on the same team until recently.

For Kristin getting to hang out with Astrid and Mari was a major draw. “I play rugby because I like spending time with my sisters,” she said.

Having turned 16, however, Kristin is eligible to play senior women’s rugby in Norway and briefly made the step up to 15s training prior to embarking on a year-long trip to Sydney.

Kristin travelled to Australia last month on an exchange programme, but COVID-19 restrictions have delayed her integration into her new surroundings.

The 16-year-old has, though, got a job at a fast-food restaurant and mum Bronia has been able to keep in touch with her through daily video calls.

International ambitions

Life without their older sister at home has been tough for Astrid and Mari, but all three remain committed to achieving their goal of becoming international players.

Middle sibling Astrid is open to that dream being achieved with either Australia or Norway and knows the key to success lies in practising her catching and tackling.

“Astrid's very good at one thing at a time,” Bronia said. “She catches the ball really well and she runs well, but the two together is sometimes a bit of a struggle.”

Younger sister Mari, meanwhile, is not so keen on the idea of leaving home and has therefore set her sights on playing for Norway.

“I don't think I will try to play for Australia,” Mari said. “I don't want to do it as a jump and I don't want to move out to go to Australia because then I think I'll need to get a house and things, and money.”

She added: “In Norway, I think I will get in the team if I play for the next 10 years.”

Kristin, meanwhile, whose favourite player is Black Ferns star and Olympic gold medallist Portia Woodman, hopes to remain involved with rugby for many years to come.

“If I’m not playing for a national team I hope to be playing for a small team just for fun,” she said.

Growing up in a rugby family comes with some clear advantages when it comes to training as it means there is usually someone at home to throw a ball around, or practice tackling, with.

But, what should people whose parents and siblings aren’t into rugby do if they want to give the game a try?

Astrid and Mari agreed that learning to tackle before attending training would be useful, although the sisters differed on how that lesson should be carried out.

Mari suggested investing in a tackle bag to hone technique, while Astrid advised “if you’ve got a sibling, tackle them!”

“Come to training and be prepared to be tackled,” Astrid added. “Be prepared and be committed.”

Young women and girls getting into rugby in Norway could not have better role models than Kristin, Astrid and Mari.

Norwegian sisters Kristin, Astrid and Mari have grown up surrounded by rugby.

It was through the game that their parents met, when mum Bronia refereed a match that dad Jon-Thomas was playing in!

Rugby had helped Bronia settle into life in Norway after she moved from Australia as a student while dad Jon-Thomas represented the men’s national team.

It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that they have raised three children who have such an affinity with the oval ball.

Eldest daughter Kristin, now 16, attended her first rugby tournament when she was only six days old and the three girls have grown up playing on the same team at Sagene IF in Oslo.

All three siblings, Kristin, 16, Astrid, 14, and Mari, 11, harbour dreams of playing for Norway themselves and hope to help encourage more young women and girls in the country to take up rugby.

Last updated: Dec 3, 2021, 8:29:08 AM
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