Talking Points – ANZAC Friendship AFL Weekend

This is more than a game of footy, it’s a commemoration of heroes on 2 sides of a battle who risked everything for their country, it’s a celebration of the fact that those 2 countries can come together more and more every day since and it’s an appreciation from people from Australia and beyond who are lucky enough to call Vietnam home and enjoy the hospitality of the fantastic Vietnamese people.

So… the main talking points (there’s another 100 but we’ll stick to the big ones):

The Location

This is not just any old game in Vung Tau, this is at the Lord Mayor’s Oval (aka the modern day Greyhound Racing Track) which played host to the VFL (Vietnam Football League) from 1967 to 1971 during the Australian soldiers down time in the war. The official match record has a complete history of the VFL and we’ll post that on site as soon as it’s released. Not only is the ground historically significant but it’s one of the only fields in Asia to have permanent goal posts, the oval shape makes it ideal for Aussie Rules although the ridiculously hot weather in Southern Vietnam has reportedly left the field in a pretty dry state. All players will be hoping for some ocean breeze to keep the player comfort within a bearable range.

- 15-321a-Aussie Rules Footy Game at Vung Tau 1968 (Gary Dobson)

The Lord Mayors Oval hosting some of the Aussie soldiers during the war.

The History

The war connections make this an amazing event in it’s own right but the ANZAC Friendship is building upon that history year on year. This will be the 8th friendship match held with the first somewhat fittingly being held between the North and the South of Vietnam and then Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Jakarta all contesting the game. Despite the who’s who of Asian footy teams in that history only Jakarta have ever knocked the hosts off (twice). Swannies captain Billy Crang is now the only standing player to contest all 8 matches and fondly talks of the meaning of the annual fixture, “to me it’s the best part of playing footy in Vietnam. The connection we have with the vets who were here 50 years ago is magical. There’s nothing more thrilling than a vet sharing some of their good and bad memories from their time here in the war before shifting to how much they love watching the Friendship between the 2 countries these days and especially the footy at the field. A lot of the best Swannies footy I’ve been a part of has happened in these games and I’m confident this year will help to build a solid direction for the current playing group.” Further history, this will be the second ever International women’s match in Asia, the first on an ANZAC day event but likely the first of many.

(Rick Neilson 110 Sigs 1970-71) 073a

Amongst the horrors of war a game of footy can give guys a sense of normal-ness. (pic courtesy Stan Middleton)

The McMillan Dinner

One of the highlights of the weekend is the annual McMillan dinner. This year’s McMillan Dinner is special in many ways. Firstly it returns to the open air setting of down stairs at the Swans home in Vung Tau Tommys 3. Secondly the late Kevin McMillan’s son David McMillan will be at this year’s dinner (and game). It will be a great honor to hear him speak briefly of his families involvement with this now long running tradition. Third and finally the man behind alot of the friendship match success over these 8 years Mr Glenn Nolan will give the Middleton Address and relate to how the event has come to fit within the football, local and veteran’s communities. Glenn’s insights especially with the recent connections between former foes will be fascinating and encompass the full history of this magnificent event. Not to be missed!

The Vets

These guys are always the heroes of ANZAC Day, one of the best parts of the Friendship Match is that both teams wear black arm bands on both arms to remember the fallen on both sides. on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan one of the most inspiring images (despite the political background) was heroes of the Vietnamese and Australian armies meeting, sharing stories, beers and friendships. The Swans take great pride in the fact that this game is purely a connection event offering a great chance to bring people together whilst paying utmost respect. If you’re at the field and run into some of the returning vets make sure to strike up a conversation, these guys have some fascinating perspectives on modern day Vietnam and the significance of returning and a random game of AFL being played in front of such a unique backdrop.

Pic courtesy Stan Middleton

Pic courtesy Stan Middleton

The Women

As has been well covered women’s footy is not just taking off in Australia, It’s exploding in the most South-East corner of mainland Asia with the Cambodian Apsaras and Vietnam Gaels set to take the field and play their second (and Asia’s) ever international match from 11am. The first game in Phnom Penh was a cracker and Vietnam emerged victorious via some better skills around the field. The Apsaras have been training heavily and will be looking to overturn this result. It remains to be seen if they can close this gap.

The seed was planted at the Asian Champs in Saigon last year and it's looking like it'll go to new levels in the next few years!

The seed was planted at the Asian Champs in Saigon last year and it’s looking like it’ll go to new levels in the next few years!

Full preview here…

The Legends and All Stars

This is the 7th CommBank cup and bound to be the biggest and best yet! The Lagler Legends and Al Frescos All Stars is not only attracting a great callibre of player in great numbers in 2017 but it’s going further towards one of the big focal points of this day, raising funds for the great charities Swim Vietnam and the Center for Children’s Protection in Vung Tau. Players range from Swans who for one reason or another aren’t playing in the Friendship Match, ex Swannies who refuse to go quietly from the ANZAC festivities, friends and family local and abroad who can’t get enough of this mega event. The odd ex AFL player has been known to drop in and have a kick although some of them have come unstuck in spectacular fashion in the harsh climate and conditions found in Vung Tau (yes Brad Seymour that’s you!).

The CommBank Cup brings Swannies old and new together every year in an entertaining yet willing clash.

The CommBank Cup brings Swannies old and new together every year in an entertaining yet willing clash.

This year the team sponsors, Lagler and The Al Frescos Group are upping the ante and offering a per goal contribution to the days sponsors per goal kicked. That’s right if Stacka repeats his previous form and kicks 5 it’ll be for more than the usual bragging rights and directly benefit the charities. Even better the losing team has agreed they will double their contribution.

More on the line than just 12 months bragging rights should really bring out the heat this weekend!

Detailed post on the Swans page here...

The Eagles

2016 was a huge year for AFL in Cambodia and 2017 looks set to follow suit. In 2016 the Eagles won their first ever major trophy (The Indochina Cup in Myanmar over the Vietnam Swans among others), took their local development to a new level fielding up to half the squad of Khmer locals who are now key players in the squad, won the Annual Cannonball run from Vietnam on aggregate, fielded players who competed in the first ever women’s demonstration game at the Asian Championships in Saigon and sewed the seed for the now firing Cambodian Apsaras women’s team.

2017 has already seen the first ever women’s game in Asia played in Phnom Penh vs the Saigon Gaels, a 10 goal victory to the Eagles in the curtain raiser to the women’s game and now the Eagles first ever ANZAC Friendship Match in Vung Tau. The squad looks solid with 20 players coming in as confident as possible. The key inclusion of 4 x Swans B&F but now forgotten legend Luke “Dukesey” Creamer adds a bit of cream to the Eagles and means the Swans have got a big challenge coming up on Saturday…

The Eagles celebrating their first ever international cup victory, the Indochina Cup in Myanmar last year.

The Eagles celebrating their first ever international cup victory, the Indochina Cup in Myanmar last year.

The Swans

If ever there was a time for the Swans to pull out their best it’s this weekend. After a tough start to the year including a solid but unsuccessful trip to Jakarta and a bad loss after a tough bus ride to Phnom Penh the Swans are at the bottom of their form line. 2017 National coach Al Shiells has been heaping pressure on experienced players to turn around the teams fortunes while encouraging the newer guys to take a stake in the clubs performances and pressure for spots in the team. Never has that been more apparent than at team selections on Wednesday evening when plenty of new names were announced and some senior guys given the challenge to get back to the form that took the Swans all the way to the Manila Cup in 2015.

This is the perfect statement game, home game, huge significance, bad loss to atone for and a big back half of 2017 looming.

The Swans last words of wisdom from coach Uncle Al in Saigon on Wednesday night.

The Swans last words of wisdom from coach Uncle Al in Saigon on Wednesday night.

The Squad

This is always the toughest squad to pic of the season and 2017 was possibly the toughest ever. Several guns have been left out and there’s some really exciting new talent coming in. The Northern contingent is strong led by the man bigger than Fansipan himself Grant Keys, he’s got some new and old wingmen this year with Spencer Whittaker and American Benny Carpenter-Nwanyanwu bringing the average age of the squad down significantly and Tom Reddecliffe making his ANZAC debut after a few years in Vietnam bringing some much needed fitness to the flanks and perhaps deeper inside. In Saigon some new talent (and some old) will line up but keep an eye out for Grant Richardson in the engine room, 93 million people will be hoping he can handle the heat. Someone who probably wont handle the heat but could do some damage regardless is the self proclaimed ‘King of Saigon’ (after a few weeks) Brad ‘Macca’ McNamara. He has the fitness of a sloth but knows exactly where the big sticks are all day.

As local development takes center stage the Swans have turned to other international clubs for their recruitment bringing Benny straight in from the American International Cup team.

As local development takes center stage the Swans have turned to other international clubs for their recruitment bringing Benny straight in from the American International Cup team.

The Vietnamese boys are well represented with big Vinh, Dinh Anh and Trung raring to go at the Cambodians and counter their Khmer brigade.

Check out the full post here…

The Logistics

There’s so much to this day that it’s hard to list but the jist goes:

Friday

4:20pm – Port v Carlton at Tommys, welcome dinner off the menu.

6pm – Bus from Saigon Pearl to Vung Tau – 150k vnd a head.

Saturday

11am – Vietnam Gaels vs the Cambodian Apsaras

12:30 – The CommBank Cup,

2pm – The formalities (anthems, ode, minutes silence)

2:30 – The ANZAC Friendship Match – Vietnam Swans vs Cambodian Eagles

6:30 – The McMillan Dinner and the Middleton Address @ Tommys Bar

Sunday

9:00 – Recovery Session @ Tommys Bar

10:00 – Orphanage visit, cabs leaving from Tommys Bar

12:00 – First bus to Saigon

4:30pm the party bus after the full Sunday sesh watching the footy live on TV.

Get the full details on the Vietnam Swans website.

 

       

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