Saturday, September 9th 2023 – Chonburi, Thailand
It had been quite an interrupted Asian Champs preparation for the Swans this year, with the league’s most prestigious tournament being held just 5 weeks after our 8 week summer break and to add to it, 3 field cancellations due to rain and one forced 9pm turf session within that 5 week period.
How had our Swans and Lady Swans handled their 8 week break? Was any work put in over the summer away from footy? Would we re-gather with not too much ground to make up on a fitness level, or had one of the region’s hardest partying footy clubs lived up to their title during some well-deserved time off?
With just a single blemish on both win/loss records for the year to-date and squads that are arguably the most talented the club has seen in it’s 20 year history, there was every reason for both teams to turn up to the lush fields of the Siam Country Club in Pattaya Thailand last weekend ready to play, and that was exactly what occurred.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Women’s write-up tentatively scheduled for tomorrow, if you’ve been following the page you’ll be already getting a hit of what to expect!
Vietnam Swans Men’s
Vietnam Swans vs Singapore Wombats
The men had gathered Saturday morning around the hotel pool to discuss how we’d approach the short-form games ahead of us and how we’d use our strengths to our advantage, and it was all pretty simple. We needed to burst out of the blocks against the Wombats, impose ourselves physically, use strength in numbers and move the ball quickly to give our forwards space and advantage. The boys looked locked-in, and you could feel there was a good mix of focus and excitement amongst the group as we traveled to the ground.
What followed the first bounce was the best 10 minutes of footy we’d played all year.
The Swans quickly piled on four straight goals in the first 10 minutes due some unreal Jono McKay ruckwork, slick clearance footy from our trusty engine room and smart leading patterns from our forwards, and we went into the half-time break breathing fire! A lid was quickly put on it by coach Timmy and objectives re-written in the short 3 minute half-time break, and the men went out there to continue the onslaught.
The Wombats came to play in the second half and although it was a tighter contest than the first, they were no match for the hungry Swans that put their foot down in the final few minutes to pile on another two goals and emerge 5 goal victors in Game 1 of 3.
Vietnam Swans 6.2. 36 Singapore Wombats 1.1. 7
Best Players: Rusty Clarke, Jono McKay, Ryan Tishler, Jordy Johnson, Jake Norris
Goal scorers: Villa 2, Rusty 1, Cam King 1, Cam Pirrett 1, Wayne McMahon 1
Vietnam Swans vs Indonesia Volcanoes
There was some real self-belief within the group coming into this game against our only loss of the season, the Indonesia Volcanoes, after our effort in the first game and the news that Indonesia had been beaten well and held goalless by the PNG Muruks in the other Game 1 of Division 1.
The first few minutes of the first half were a real contested scrap, with the Swans arguably getting the better of it apart from a quick goal to the Volcanoes shortly after the first bounce. National Co-Captain Jake Norris went down with a knee injury only 5 minutes into the first half, and there were collective gasps from the Swans sideline as he had to be helped from the field. In 20 minute games, sometimes that’s all it takes to upset momentum and Indonesia took full advantage, kicking another 2 goals before half time and going into the break 3 goals up.
The boys rallied after the half, the magnets were moved around a bit and a fierce contest ensued with Ryan Tishler, Will Sandman and club Legend Wang-Han Swat (Vaughan!) at their physical best in a bid to bridge the scoreboard gap. The courageous “Burra” also came back onto the field with the knee strapped up (somehow!) and we fought hard for a 1-goal-a-piece 2nd half stalemate. Unfortunately not enough, and we went down by 3 goals.. A very questionable jumper reversal to hide their player numbers and create a horrible guernsey clash just all part of a day’s work for the Volcs, we can’t wait to have another crack at them in 2024!
Indonesia Volcanoes 4.4. 28 Vietnam Swans 1.2. 8
Best Players: Ryan Tishler, Jono McKay, Jordy Johnson, Will Sandman, Rusty Clarke
Goalscorer: Jono McKay
Vietnam Swans vs PNG Muruks
So it all came down to this. If we beat the Muruks in Game 3, we were into the Grand Final. The boys were battered and bruised but still pumped and had a bit left in the tank, and we knew to beat these guys we needed to be back to our most physical, turn on our aerial game and keep the ball off the deck as much as possible. It was a hotly contested game and we were up for the challenge. Our goal by Cam Pirret in the 1st half plus a few team behinds gave us the lead for almost the entire game, the Muruks goalkicking accuracy had at that stage been letting them down and we were moving the ball relatively well around the ground with Co-Skip Jono finding his aerial confidence when it mattered, bringing down a couple of very important grabs in the 2nd half. A very unfortunate 50m penalty led to a PNG goal, and a 3 point lead that the Muruks would hold all the way to the final siren. It was a manic final 5 minutes that included everything, from elbows to red cards, scoring opportunities for both teams, and a decision not to allow another Swans player to take a free kick as one of our men struggled to come off the ground with a lower back injury.
In the end, it was very much “what could’ve been?”, and the boys were devastated. We missed the Grand Final by 2 points, but in a performance that each and every Swan on the day should be proud of. We held our own against the region’s best, in a division that nobody expected us to be competitive in, and also a division that no other club would dare to enter. Will it be the same four again next year, or will clubs around Asia pull their fingers out and strive to compete against the best? Only time will tell.
We know where we belong, we belong in Division One and we will be back in 2024 with more experience, fitness and durability, and hopefully a few extra personnel under our belt – to have another crack at glory.
PNG Muruks 1.5. 11 Vietnam Swans 1.3. 8
Best Players: Jono McKay, Rusty Clarke, Jake Norris, Cam Pirrett, Bill Crang
Goalscorer: Cam Pirrett
AFL All-Asia Accolades 2023
This year, three of our men received the coveted AFL All-Asia accolades for their outstanding performances across the day. National Co-Captain Jono McKay once again proved he was the best ruckman in Asia, receiving his 2nd All-Asia Guernsey in a row with an incredible aerial display across the entire day. Deputy-Vice Captain Rusty Clarke also received back-to-back AFL All-Asia honors with his attack at the contest and clearance ability being arguably the best in the region once again. Also, a big congratulations to Ryan Tishler on his first All-Asia acknowledgement. Tish is very much the unsung hero of our formidable midfield, working tirelessly around the contest and always doing the team thing – this year he got the recognition that was well-deserved.