The 2018 AFL Asia Asian Championships will be one the Vietnam Swans remember for a long time! It was the largest touring squad we’ve ever sent, including the Club’s very first #AFLW team to contest an Asian Champs.
Read on for more about the day!
The Swans Battle to be Champs for over a Decade
The Vietnam Swans emerged as Vietnam’s national AFL club when two teams from Hanoi and Saigon unified, way back in 2007. That move delivered a stronger playing group and much more potential for the growth of footy in Vietnam… but each year the Asian Champs has come and gone and we’ve walked away empty-handed.
There has been a great vibe around the Club in 2018. With new coaches, the addition of #AFLW (this year) and Division 2 for the mens (recently), and some decent results from games earlier this year, there was a vague sense of hope that 2018 could really be THE year.
The Lady Swans shake up the Title Race
Four teams contested the first #AFLW division of the Asian Championships: Malaysia, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Vietnam. The division has quickly emerged with the support of AFL Asia and there is a really strong bond between the teams.
Nonetheless, only one team was going to walk away with the title for 2018.
The Lady Swans delivered an upset win early in the tournament, defeating the widely-tipped Malaysian Warrior Women in the very first game. This result shook the tournament, as only the two highest-ranked teams from the pool games would progress on to the grand final.
Results throughout the day continued to deliver tightly-contested upsets. The Lady Swans defeated the Cambodian Apsaras next and, all of a sudden, the race for the inaugural AFLW title was wide open.
Linh and Lucy combine in the midfiield against the Apsaras. Photo courtesy of Andrew Robbo Roberts.
Katie and Rosie, outnumbered against the Apsaras. Photo courtesy of Andrew Robbo Roberts.
A narrow defeat to Hong Kong followed… but with 2 wins and a single loss, the Ladies had done enough to qualify for the grand final!
Naomi attracting some attention in the midfiield against Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Darren Whitfield.
The Grand Final: Hong Kong vs. Lady Swans
With the defeat of the Swans’ mens team by the Papua New Guinea Murucks in the semi finals, the Club’s chances now rested on the Lady Swans.
Hong Kong controlled the lion’s share of the play in the first half. The Lady Swans had been under siege in defence, but thanks to inaccurate kicking from Hong Kong, the Lady Swans were looking at only a three-point deficit going into the (very short) break.
Linh shows courage as the Lady Swans defend in the first half of the 2018 Grand Final. Photo courtesy of Darren Whitfield.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first. While Hong Kong were dominating possession, they just couldn’t land a decisive blow. Katie, Steph and Nini were soaking up the pressure and Heather Julien was unleashing long clearing kicks.
Lucy Jones was fired up for the second half.
The Lady Swans were also rebounding regularly through Naomi, Heather Turkle and Chia. The sidelines were abuzz: could the Swans find a goal against the flow of play??
Naomi laid a great tackle midway though the half and her free kick went long into the forward line, finally linking up with Lu. She gathered… and kicked truly!
The crowd erupted. The Lady Swans were in front for the first time in the match! While we were leading by a mere 3 points, we had one hand on the Cup!
With the Ladies’ noses in front, the final half seemed to go on forever. Siara, Steph and Lu got some critical defensive touches in the final stages: it was frantic as both sides tried desperately to find the sealer. The boys were on the edge of their seats as they looked on.
The siren finally went and the Lady Swans had claimed the first Asian Champs for the Club!
The Lady Swans Deliver the Club’s Breakthrough Title
What’s it feel like to win the Cup?
The Lady Swans are a really diverse group of players, with Aussies and New Zealanders lining up alongside local Vietnamese, Philippinos, Irish, Canadians, Americans, English and others.
Despite the new track record of the Lady Swans at Asian Champs, it’s not every day that a team wins the title. For many of the Ladies, this was their first sporting title, let alone Aussie Rules tournament victory. Some players had learnt the game over the course of the last few months, if not weeks!
We spoke to the Ladies about what the win meant to them…
Chia (Australian, Coach / Co-Captain):
Our girls have grown so much through this season, learning discipline, team work and game strategy. With only 1 win from 5 games leading so far, the team had experienced plenty of challenges and really had nothing to lose at Asian Champs.
I’m so proud of each of the players. They put all they had learnt over season to the test on Saturday. They put their bodies on the line and worked as any good team does to win.
In a little under 12 months I have seen the team grow in leaps and bounds, on and off the field. The team has had a fantastic journey, fostering relationships with a great bunch of girls of all ages and nationalities.
It was these relationships, team culture and respect that everyone has for each other that enabled us to take out the huge win. This win is a credit to everyone involved in the team all year, not just the girls involved on the day. As a coach I feel honoured to have been able to take the girls through this experience. It’s one that will go down in history.
Thanks to AFL Asia for all the support in reaching this point of #AFLW in the region.
There is so much to put into words! We were just beginning less that a year ago. Every week I met someone new. Everyone felt welcome, we just joined, in, shared what we knew and encouraged everyone. We have all learned so much in such a short time.
We had simple goals for the Champs: a win here, a success there, not too much. The achievement of each of those small goals that put us in a position to win the grand final. From there we just needed to believe!
What’s great about the Swans is meeting new people and learning why they chose Aussie Rules. Many of us simply love sport, competition and getting out there to play! I love being a part of the Vietnam Swans.
Naomi (far right) and Heather (second from right) receive their All Asia awards!
Naomi (Irish, selected in the All Asia Team of the Tournament)
As the dust settles from the greatest AFL sporting weekend I’ve ever had, I am beyond delighted to have been a part of the Lady Swans. Some key players and people were not there on the day but they were with us in spirit and always showing us massive support.
It’s an honour and a privilege to train and play such a great sport with truly amazing characters both on the men’s and women’s Swannies teams here in HCMC and Hanoi. It was worth every cut, bruise and black eye to come back with the cup! #hardwork #teamwork
Heather (American, selected in the All Asia Team of the Tournament)
I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my 5+ years in Vietnam than to finally be part of a tournament-title-winning team! I’m so proud to represent Vietnam with this awesome bunch of women.
A few of us were introduced to AFL with the Swans as Gaelic football players. Although the AFL ball is extremely infuriating, the element of proper tackling sold me on the sport. Gaelic has softened rules for tackling for the women’s teams: I appreciate that AFL doesn’t differentiate between men’s and women’s rules, and encourages women to be strong and courageous.
I knew AFLW would develop quickly in Vietnam with Chia’s guidance. I’ve had the pleasure of playing rugby, Gaelic, and netball with Chia, so I knew she’d be the perfect ambassador to grow the sport here. And look how far we’ve come in less than a year!.. having a great group of local women representing our team and winning our first major tournament- two things I haven’t experienced in any other Saigon sport!
So, a huge thanks to Chia, my teammates/new friends, and of course, the men’s team for their huge support on and off the field. It has been amazing to be part of this club!
Some of the Vietnamese players in the Lady Swans: Nhan, Linh, Lucy, Trang, Rosie and Yen!
I’m very proud to be part of the Việt Nam Lady Swans. This tournament was my first time playing AFLW games and it was a really special moment in my life.
I got involved in football because of my family. Football is a strange sport (not popular) for Việt Namese! I go to Auskick with the Saigon Colts almost every Saturday with Dylan, to help and encourage him to be familiar with footy. Leo and Cruz dream of being AFL players in the future too: the boys were surprised and very happy for me because they knew I joined the team not long ago!
Thanks to the Club for giving us an opportunity to play. Special thanks to all the help from our coaches (Shane and Chia) who’ve helped us learn skills and great team work.. and a big congratulations to ladies who did give all their best to win the game!
I joined the AFL team about 6 months ago. Everyone, especially the coach, are patient to help me understand how to play. I think that I have played better each game and I’m happy and thankful for that.
It was unexpected to win the big game at Asian Champs! I was very proud when I was there and got to hold the gold champions cup.
I found out about AFL Asia through social media. My husband, an Australian, is quite into AFL but until recently was too lazy to join the Vietnam Swans 😉 I went to a few trainings and enjoyed it straight away.
It’s a big challenge combining a team from two cities 2000km apart. You definitely gain an amount of camaraderie training together, but the girls from the South always make me and others from the North feel welcome and part of the team, on and off the field.
I’m so proud to be involved in the Club, and winning the championships in Kuala Lumpur has given me a huge confidence boost.
Now it’s time to knuckle down and train hard for AFLX in December!
#AFLW has been a great experience with the Swans! This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to train and play alongside my brother Alex too. I’ve followed footy for a while, but he really helped me practice the skills and learn how to play as we counted down to Asian Champs.
It was Katie who convinced me at the Indochina Cup (a few weeks prior) to play in the Asian Champs. A few wines had me brave, so I agreed!
I was a bit nervous, but Chia’s leadership and confidence made a difference. I really felt the support and respect between all of us. A momentous experience to play and an extraordinary experience to win. Unforgettable!
Congratulations to the Players
The Club is so proud of each and every one of the Ladies and we’ve fielded a range of best wishes from supporters and sponsors. Its a huge breakthrough for the Vietnam Swans and hopefully the first of many titles.
Congratulations to all the Ladies who played in the Club’s inaugural title win. As President, Eric ‘Kerro’ Kerrison remarked:
The Ladies have been an asset to the Club this year and the seamless transition is a credit to you all.
Enjoy the spoils that come with this win, cherish the memories and the great bond you have created. You are history makers and that can never be taken away. First ever AFLW Asian Champs.
And to Chia, take a bow, you deserve your time in the spotlight here. A truly inspirational leader.
Finally, a huge thanks to the sponsors for their support throughout the season. We’re supported by a wide range of people in the community, but it’s the support of major sponsors like Vietnam Backpacker Hostels, Wide Eyed Tours, The Al Frescos Group, Beachside Boutique Resort in Hoi An, Expat Tax Services and X-Digital that make it possible to play games, provide training venues, participate in tours, host events and even produce the playing kits each year. Places2Go are also great supporters of our efforts to get local players to tournaments around Asia.
We’re off to Hanoi on December 8!
We’re hosting an AFL-X tournament in Hanoi on December 8. This will conclude our 2018 season. See you there!