Eagles, Geckos, Bulldogs, Legends, Girls & Locals Steal #Champs16 Show

WOW! The Vietnam Swans have finally been able to get out and host the 17th ever AFL Asian Champs and what an event it was. Unfortunately for the locals results didn’t favor the 60+ Men and 20+ Women who represented the club on the day but the standard of the event has reset the bar for AFL events in Asia and must be up there with the best sporting events held locally (granted the bar is being raised by the Saigon Rugby 10s and Saigon International Softball Tournaments every single year – It’s great to see Sport in Saigon being so well represented within the Asian region!).

With solid crowds and over 500 competitors there were so many highlights across the 2 days of action that it’d take too long to go through it all so we’ll limit it to 6 of the key highlights.

The Locals

What better place to start than the local Asian Footy scene which has been growing for over a decade primarily due to some amazing work from dedicated footy lovers in China and Indonesia. Both teams have represented their countries at the International Cup held in Melbourne every 3 years and are growing in stature for the experience. Both teams entered teams for the first time in the All Asian Cup (a 100% local AFL tournament held for the first time on Friday afternoon) and even more excitingly the Indochina Bulldogs who are looking to build their ranks for upcoming Asian Cup assaults joined their more experienced brothers for a 3-way hitout. A solid crowd from across the region were on hand to witness what can only be described as staggering football when you consider how new these guys are to the game. Put simply they bring a new level of athleticism to the game and their skill rise will no doubt continue.

Dinh Anh more than redeemed his disappointing (by his own standards) All Asia Cup on the Saturday representing his country in the team of the tournament at the days end!

Dinh Anh more than redeemed his disappointing (by his own standards) All Asia Cup on the Saturday representing his country in the team of the tournament at the days end!

Unfortunately the less experienced Indochina team lost both games but players gained imeasurable experience. Saigon’s own upcoming local star Nguyen Dinh Anh actually lamented playing in the All Asian format as he lost his unique size (small can actually end up harder to tackle than big) and speed advantages. After telling Sport in Saigon about his disappointment of not performing to his own standards on his first championship experience Dinh Anh came out and made the Team of the Tournament on the Saturday. It’s signs like those that give those behind the local development movement such great enthusiasm going forward – Congratulations Dinh Anh and all the Vietnamese boys on doing Vietnam and the Swans proud!

The All Asian Cup final between China and the Indonesian Garudas was something else. Both teams have the skills and hardness of experienced football players but bring a unique blend of speed and unpredictability. The finals live broadcast aptly commentated by AFL Asia Vice President and the Mayor of Hanoi Grant Keys was not just a first for Asian footy but an amazing showpiece of the game. Congratulations to the Indonesian Garudas who proved too good on the day. This is the type of story the Aussie media should be marveling over (but we’ll get to that later!).

Check out the full final action in the video below:

The Bulldogs

If you’re an Australian journalist the highlight of the day was seemingly getting the chance to make up some negative angles after hearing about 2 Western Bulldogs Premiership players (as of 2 weeks ago) having a beer and (brief) kick at a local football tournament in a far flung continent. If some of the PC brigade in Aus had their way 2 young blokes celebrating a hard fought, brilliant and largely unexpected Premiership shouldn’t be seen to be human or friendly or support the game that earns them their salary. We’d challenge any of the so called ‘journalists’ at The Age, Fox Sports, The Herald Sun, The AFL and the rest to get to an event like this one day and see just how Awesome Footy is in Asia and beyond..

The reality is having the boys at the event and being such great and open guys was a HUGE reward for a lot of guys who do a lot with little recognition back home to spread Australia’s strongest cultural asset (it’s unique sporting product and passion) to countries around the world. Libba’s haircut getting more attention than the fact that the boys took time out of their travels to be at a tournament like this and make themselves available all day for any photos, chats about their recent giant killing run in the AFL finals shows just how out of whack the main stream can be. From anyone who was at the game or who cares about keeping good blokes in Australian sport well done boys and keep it up!

Tom Liberatore at the Asian Championships in Vietnam, Libba in Vietnam

Libba’s presence at Asia’s biggest ever AFL tournament did alot more than his haircut for the sport in the world’s most populous continent. Something those running the game in it’s heartland would be smart to wise up to in the near future if they’re serious about really growing Australia’s signature sport internationally.

The Legends

AFL Asia actually regularly attracts legends of the sport who recognize the value of growing the game in new lands but also the need for strong connections back to the game in it’s heartland. Andrew Embley and Brad Seymour exemplify this more than anyone! Both have done multiple trips to the area and are continuous supporters of the games development in Asia. #Champs 16 was no different with the pair both attending and supporting several valuable parts of the day.

Embers is the coach of the developing Indochina Bulldogs with family roots in Myanmar (one of 5 countries in the Indochina family) and provided more great insights to the boys in their first full tournament on Friday helping the squad grow towards the level they’ll need for future international tournaments.

Both Brad and Andrew gave some amazing insights into the AFL through their hands on involvement (ongoing in both cases) on Friday’s Expat Taxes Sportsman’s Lunch proceeding the All Asia Cup. Highlights included hearing about Brad’s ongoing insights into the Sydney Swans successful footy department via his role on the board and Embers key insights into the famous Swans vs Eagles rivalry of the mid 2000s including his Norm Smith earning role in the Eagles victory in 2006.

If all that wasn’t enough both were on the scene to help support the first ever Women’s AFL match played at an Asian Championships offering coaching and support to the girls ensuring they not only took to the field but put on a great show and provided yet another highlight to massive day. This kind of support is what makes events like this grow the way it is and the guys who give their time so generously should be applauded for their efforts, Thanks Brad and Embers!

Great to see legends like Embers and Brad helping out with the game's growth in Asia. Their support of the overall event, the Sportsman's Lunch, the Indochina Bulldogs and the All Asia Cup as well as the Women's game was fantastic and a key part of the days overall success.

Great to see legends like Embers and Brad helping out with the game’s growth in Asia. Their support of the overall event, the Sportsman’s Lunch, the Indochina Bulldogs and the All Asia Cup as well as the Women’s game was fantastic and a key part of the days overall success.

The Women

Never before has there been an Women’s National Australian Football League but there will be in 2017 with the first teams announced late this year and players now being selected to form the first ever elite women’s AFL teams. So what better time to bring the girls into the fold on Champs day?
The Vietnam Swans have a proud history of forging tight relationships with their sister clubs (the Saigon Gaels in Saigon and the Hanoi Celts in Hanoi) so it was a no-brainer to add a women’s AFL match to the schedule towards the finals end of the day.

Vietnam Swans and Asian Champs Organizing Committee member Maz Scanlon got to go from organizing the best ever AFL tournament in Asia to driving the Reds to a win in the first ever Women's AFL match at an Asian Football Tournament.

Vietnam Swans and Asian Champs Organizing Committee member Maz Scanlon got to go from organizing the best ever AFL tournament in Asia to driving the Reds to a win in the first ever Women’s AFL match at an Asian Football Tournament.

Girls from several countries came together and put on an epic show with many showing the experience they have gleaned from domestic mixed 9’s and Gaelic tournaments. This is a direction with huge growth potential and surely there will be some international matches to follow. Watch this space!

The game was also broadcast live on AFL Asia’s Youtube Channel:

 

The Eagles

The Asian Championships is notoriously dominated by the ‘big teams’ of Asian Footy the Singapore Wombats and Hong Kong Dragons. Teams like Malaysia, Jakarta, Vietnam and the Philippines are forever trying to close the gap on the biggest day of the Asian footy calendar. There’s been noticeable tightening in recent years with both the Philippines and Vietnam claiming the prestigious Manila Cup and Malaysia and Jakarta enjoying sustained success throughout the season’s home & away matches but until this year none of the trailing pack had managed to get by incumbents. At one stage with Hong Kong early leaders in one Semi final and then Singapore doing away with Malaysia at the same stage it looked like the status quo would remain with the only question being which one would get up until the Philippine Eagles first hit back hard against Hong Kong controlling the latter stages of the game convincingly and then coming from behind in the early stages of the Grand Final to take charge and eventually take out the Holy Grail of footy in Asia.

This is no fluke, with only a short history as touring Champs contenders the Eagles first won the Manila Cup at home in 2014 and made a final that same year hosting the tournament in Angeles City before going down to Singapore. They remained hugely competitive throughout 2015 without luck before taking out a convincing Manila Cup win again early in 2016. This form was what the Supermodel of Asian Footy Evan Spargo and his boys needed to lift their charge into this years tournament to the next level. The Eagles have now shown the rest it CAN be done and also have the challenge themselves to maintain the level. Nothing suggests they can’t do so for the foreseeable future.

The Eagles have managed to get their hands on the Asian Champs trophy at long last! They will be celebrating it long and hard in Manila despite some forecast inclement weather about to arrive!

The Eagles have managed to get their hands on the Asian Champs trophy at long last! They will be celebrating it long and hard in Manila despite some forecast inclement weather about to arrive!

The Geckos

This was the second year of the 2 division format and it’s already proven a massive winner. Not only are all teams in the tournament throughout the day but the results are creating their own new levels of excitement. Everyone’s favorite pink uniformed footy team the Laos Elephants winning last year in the first Division 2 final was almost upstaged by the charge from the extra hard Fighting Cocks from Myanmar who have recruited well and taken their few year old team to new levels. No-one expected them to achieve results like taking out their Indochina foes the Cambodian Eagles in the Semi Final. They will bring a new level of intrigue to the upcoming Indochina Cup in November which they’re hosting for the first time in Yangon.

It was perhaps less surprising that the Bali Geckos proved highly suited to the new 2 tier format. Always one of the strongest teams in terms of fitness (gained from all those hard paddling surf sessions on Bali’s famed Bukit Peninsuila) and skill the only issue the Geckos have faced in mixing it with Asia’s best in the previous open format was lack of touring squad numbers. Division 2 now playing 12 a side gave the fit Geckos both some space to open up the field and a bit more depth to get through the day and it was all they needed. From the start of the day they looked the goods in Division 2 and deservedly earned their first ever Asian Championships Trophy ever.

The Bali Geckos took out division 2 with fast and skillful football all day.

The Bali Geckos took out division 2 with fast and skillful football all day.

More info:

We’ve posted the complete AFL Asian Championships Footy Record on this site which was designed and published by event sponsor X Digital especially for the day. It has plenty of articles on the tournament if you weren’t there to get one on the day.

AFL Asia will be awash with more coverage of the day both on the website and the facebook page as everyone recovers from the massive day. The AFL Asia Youtube channel also has plenty of game broadcasts – the first time the tournament has ever been broadcast. A wonderful initiative that helped connect the huge AFL Asia Alumni (a lot of players join clubs while posted overseas but then keep the bond after returning home or heading to other posts but never could keep such great connection to the Asian footy movement) to the event.

The Vietnam Swans website and facebook page are also getting unheard of interest after the club went viral via the Australian media’s infatuation with players off-season haircuts. Aside from some clearly tongue in cheek (perhaps not so obviously tongue in cheek for some less scrupulous readers) fun there’s plenty more champs news and future updates on the Swannies coming up.

       

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