2023 Iron Bowl Reflections

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After a memorable victory in the 2023 Iron Bowl, team manager, Nordmen VP, player, and jack of all trades Robbie Patterson reflects on the game, the season and the sport of American Football going forward.

Winning the 2nd Division was a big step forward for us this year. With Coach Jonathan Ashton at the helm, we’ve been able to focus on rebuilding the culture and the attitude of the sport here in Lapland and winning it this year has proven that we are on the right track to establishing ourselves as a club that deserves some recognition and respect from the local community and from the football community in Finland. Last year, we fell a little short of our goals of making the final, but I believe that it left everyone with a bit of fire and hunger in their bellies to go out and prove that we could return to our winning ways and to attract new players and supporters to the Nordmen.

This season was very meaningful because of it being our 10th season as a club, which many people thought wouldn’t have happened after the failures of the previous club in Rovaniemi, but over the past few years our leadership has worked tirelessly to right the ship to ensure that we’ll have a place in the American Football family of Finland. We have stressed the importance of cooperating with not only local businesses and supporters, but also the importance of cooperating with our local officials from the city of Rovaniemi and perhaps even more importantly our cooperation and mutual respect for our opponents and others competing in Finland. We have a strong, diverse core of board members, coaches and volunteers that has given us a new perspective as to how we can build bridges and friendships through this sport, rather than to try to make others look bad. Our ideology is that we’re stronger together and that a unified front is far more important that just a few teams at the top and everyone else settling for scraps. Although the level of play and competition may not compare with the 1st Division or the Maple League, we firmly believe that if we want this sport to continue in Finland, that recognition and praise should be given equally to all divisions and teams – otherwise this is a sport that is doomed to fade away. With many 2nd division teams now producing better quality content than those in the 1st Division or Maple League, we believe that efforts need to be focused on the lower divisions to ensure that new comers will feel that there is a place for them and that the threshold to begin the sport will not be as daunting as it is to simply try and join a Maple League club. The efforts put into the Fifth Quarter project by the Jyväskylä Jaguars clearly shows that there are people out there that want to make things better and we feel that the SAJL should seek to support these efforts and work harder to be more inclusive of all clubs – not just the Maple League.

As far as our plans go for the future, we will think about what we want to do over the next two months, prior to the deadline to commit to which division we will play in. Although we had a very solid season, this doesn’t mean that we will automatically make the jump to the 1st Division, as player turnover always plays a role in this decision making process. We will need to fill the gaps left by a few very key players to our club, but the quest for that will begin later this autumn when we will have our introductory course. We will of course listen to our coaching staff and their opinions and then determine what we feel would be the best course of action for the club. Although we hope to ride this wave of renewed popularity and positivity that we will receive from winning the Iron Bowl, we will not blindly go into this process or be naive in determining the best course of action for this club.

The Iron Bowl was the kind of game that you want to see and be a part of. The crowd of about 300 people really got to see a tight and exciting game that really wasn’t decided until the final minute of the game. Although we would have surely liked for it to be an easier route to victory, we know that this kind of game is the kind that you will remember for years to come. A true defensive battle, neither team gave up and both left everything that they had at Susivouti that day. Both clubs overcame some adversity with injuries, Daniel Kivi came out looking as though he would be an incredibly impactful player on defense but he suffered a bad shoulder injury and our own Sami Rautiainen struggled through a badly injured ankle to return in the second half and lead the Nordmen, just to name a few. Mikko Lautamatti showed incredible poise and determination for the Cowboys – a true leader by every definition of the word – doing his absolute best to will the Cowboys to victory. His efforts should absolutely be celebrated and recognized, as he embodies the vision of a football player. Olli Salmela‘s game-breaking TD really gave the Nordmen the momentum that we needed to break the stalemate and gain the upper hand. Aurélien Germay was spectacular on the day, making huge tackles and also scoring the deciding points for the Nordmen that ultimately sealed the win for Rovaniemi.

As we all know, it takes every player working together and doing their job to the best of their ability to ensure a win and that was absolutely the case on Saturday. It came down to a game of fundamentals and minimizing mistakes and we were fortunate enough to execute a bit better and to also make fewer mistakes in order to come away with another championship. We were proud to have been able to host such a successful event and to be able to face an opponent that wanted it just as badly as we did. We lift our hats to the Cowboys for not only being incredible opponents, but also for their help with putting on the stream so that their fans in Kymenlaakso and our fans throughout the world were able to watch and partake in such an amazing experience.

On behalf of myself, the Nordmen board and players, we would like to thank each and every person that came out and supported us as volunteers, fans and sponsors for the 2023 season. Without you, this would not have been possible.

We are the North.

-Robbie

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