If the occasion of the ANZAC Centenary wasn’t significant enough, if the Dawn Service at the Long Tan Memorial on the morning of the game didn’t make you feel proud of where you had come from, if you didn’t sense the pride that the two young Vietnamese ladies singing their national anthem had for their country’s bright future, if the sight of a strong 30-plus contingent of last year’s Asian Champions the Singapore Wombats looking resplendent in special edition ANZAC jumpers didn’t make you feel proud of what has been established, if Timmy Clement’s over the shoulder snap to seal the game late in the last quarter didn’t make you cheer, then you weren’t in Vung Tau this ANZAC Day.
The Swans’ annual ANZAC Friendship Match continues to grow in stature each year. It is a great privilege to be handed an ANZAC Friendship Match Footy Record when you walk in the Vung Tau Dog Track gates and catch sight of the goalposts standing in the same place they did more than 45 years ago. Everything from the Vets that travel to the game each year to the players that put everything onto the training track weeks ahead in the hope of being selected, it all adds up to a very special occasion that all who take part in will never forget.
When the dust had settled, the fact that the Vietnam Swans had achieved one of their most famous victories was almost beside the point. Almost…
Both teams gathered in force on the Dawn Service buses at 4am on the day of the game in quiet contemplation of the events that were about to unfold. A moving service at Long Tan with wreaths laid by representatives of both teams a tribute to the respect both clubs have for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
By midday the crowd was building at the Dog Track, new Swannies merchandise was flying off the shelf, the whiff of meat pies and sausages from the Tommy’s Bar canteen was increasingly hard to resist, the Al Fresco’s All Stars and Lagler Legends were hard at it battling it out for the Commbank Cup and the Swans and Wombats couldn’t run out on the park quick enough.
While the game continues to remember the losses suffered by all – as symbolised by the two black armbands worn by each player – and together looking forward to a bright future, it has also become much about celebrating great Swannies traditions and people. Having former Swans President and the man most responsible for the success for this match, Phil Johns, back up on the on the stage as game day MC seemed fitting. Some words from ‘Fabbo’ followed by welcoming speeches from Australian Consul General John McAnulty and Swans President Grant Keys, an Ode from Rod Harlor of the 9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment 1969 and Vietnamese, New Zealand and Australian anthems sung respectively by some local Vietnamese girls, Steve Drummond and Catherine Schmitz had everyone buzzing.
The match itself was always going to be an epic clash. The Swans were coming off a thrashing at the hands of the Malaysian Warriors but were confident in having a game under their belt, adding several key players to their line up and going into the match much better settled than they had two weeks previously in Hanoi, with a well rounded and prepared squad of 22.
The Wombats had enjoyed a long off-season following winning the Asian Champs in October last year and were going into the game with only limited preparation. They had also lost some key personnel from their 2014 Champs campaign but bringing a strong contingent of players, including some talented fresh blood, they could never be underestimated.
The first quarter didn’t disappoint with an inspirational goal from playing coach Andy Glendinning opening the Swans account before two quick replies from Singapore. Enter Joe Vile, who’s ‘goal of the day’ boundary line smother and follow up checkside banana kick had both teams going in two-goals-a-piece at quarter time, with the Swans full of voice and confidence.
The move to rotate an untested but talented Gaelic footballer, Irishman Mark Horkan, with young Kiwi Scotty Mills in the ruck began to pay dividends in the second quarter, as both players settled into their roles with great leadership and instruction being provided by midfielders Mitch Hyde and Tom Doer, with 2014 Swans Best and Fairest Nath Milner also never far from a contest.
With a strong breeze at their backs the Swans came out of the quarter-time break firing, booting 6 Hanoian goals to nil in a fantastic quarter for the Swans, to go into the half up 8.5.53 to Singapore 2.4.16. Joe Vile adding a second goal, SOS joining the scoreboard with one, while Swans rookie Tom Doer and President Keys booted two each on the back of some great clearance work from the Swans midfielders and rock solid defensive work led by Timmy Pickert and Billy Crang.
Laying down is certainly not something in the Singapore Wombats repertoire, particularly on ANZAC Day. With the wind behind them they would throw everything at the Swans in the third, showing great spirit out of the half time sheds to kick two straight goals before many fans had taken their seats after seeking some half time refreshment.
With Swannies legend Kev Hornblower on the sidelines adjusting the whiteboard magnets the Swans were in good hands and managed to stem the flow before the trickle of Wombat goals became a flood, pushing players back to ensure the Wombats would only kick one further goal for the quarter, to have the Swans go in to the final term leading 54 to 37.
With the large contingent of Vets, Swans legends and friends and families cheering the Swannies on, the final quarter would belong to the home team, kicking 5 goals to 2 to close out the game 41 point victors. Doer and Keys both kicking their third for the game, Messi Hyde soccering one off the ground from long range and that Timmy Clements snap to close out the game for the Swans. Club legend David ‘SOS’ Skowronski getting chaired off the ground in his final game for the club.
Following presentations at the ground the teams would reconvene back at Tommy’s Bar and celebrate a great day for Asian footy, raising an amazing VND36.5 million for the Swans national chairty Swim Vietnam and the Vung Tau Orphanage through a raffle and an auction of AFL memoribilia kindly donated by the University of Western Sydney, Maureen Johns and Greg Keogh.
The win would see the Swans advance up the AFL Asia league ladder into 5th place with a 1 win 1 loss record.
Check out all the pics in 2015 ANZAC Day Album on Swannies Facebook
Vietnam Swans 2.2 8.5 8.6 (13.12.90) def
Singapore Wombats 2.3 2.4 5.7 (7.7.49)
Goals Swans: Doer 3, Keys 3, Skowronski 2, Vile 2, Glendinning, Hyde, Clements.
Best Swans: Mitch Hyde, Tom Doer, David Skowronski, Grant Keys, Tim Pickert
The Swans sincerely thank all their members, players, sponsors and supporters for their help in ensuring yet another successful ANZAC Friendship Game. Special mention to the Singapore Wombats for making the trip over in such strong numbers and to Glenn and Trang Nolan and all the Tommy’s Bar staff for their ongoing and much valued support of this game. Special thanks also to Ron and Ailsa Vernon, Stan and Sinh Middleton and all the Vietnam Veterans and their families that make the trip over each year to support our game and making it so special. Thanks to Adam McDonald and all the other field, boundary and goal umpires that did such a great job, SOS International for ensuring a safe event, the gate collectors, raffle ticket and merch sellers, fans, and most of all the good people of Vung Tau, the local authorities and Dog Track management that welcome us back to this great town to play each year.