As 2019 wraps up, we’re looking back at an amazing past 10 years. What made the cut? Read on for more…
1) A Decade of the ANZAC Friendship Match
In 2010, fresh from a memorable trip to Kanchanaburi to play the Thailand Tigers ANZAC Day game near the infamous Hellfire Pass the Swans decided to play an ANZAC Day game in Vung Tau between the North and South.
What happened next has come to shape our club in a way no-one could have predicted. Several Aussie veterans came forward with info on the former Vietnam Football League during the Aussie troops time based around Vung Tau. Incredibly games were played at the very field we were playing at. Stan Middleton has built quite detailed recording of the league and become the official historian of the VFL which formed part of his OAM (Order of Australia Medal). Ron & Ailsa Vernon have also become a huge part of our club mixing stories of Ron’s premiership season in the VFL with great work in the community with the Vung Tau orphanage. Ron’s pre-game address to Swans players remains a highlight of anyone’s time living and playing footy in Vietnam.
Since then we’ve played all the big Asian footy clubs and beaten all except Indonesia (2 losses to the Jakarta Bintangs and a tie with the Indonesian Volcanoes in 2019).
You can read more of the history of our biggest yearly on field fixture here…
2) The Swans Dominate the Indochina Cup
Heading into the 4th Indochina Cup in 2010, the Swans had yet to taste success in the tournament. Thailand had taken out the 1st and 3rd tournaments and Laos popped up for the 2nd. Hosted in Saigon, the Swans were optimistic about the chance to get the Club’s first piece of meaningful silverware.
Victory on that day in 2010 set the tone for a 4-peat… as the Swans then won in Laos, Hanoi and Cambodia over the next 3 years!
From there, we were pipped in Thailand (Tigers), Laos (Tigers), Myanmar (Eagles) before steadying the ship in Hanoi in 2017. We went back to win in Phnom Penh in 2018, before finishing the decade in Bangkok to take out our first ever ICC in the Thai Kingdom.
Our 7 Indochina Cups for the decade has seen us take the lead in the tournament aggregate with Thailand having 4, Cambodia and Laos 1 a piece. The Indochina Cup has been a great rivalry amongst what we consider our brother and sister clubs throughout the region. There’s scope for this to continue growing as we keep growing the game locally in each country.
The development of AFLW has seen the Cambodian Apsaras win the first 2 Indochina Cups back-to-back. You can bet that the Lady Swans will look to right this over the next decade!
3) The 2015 Manila Cup
The Manila Cup was a key fixture of the mid 2010’s. The strongest sides would gather in May, and the Swannies would tag along.
Something clicked in 2015, with the Swans beating Singapore and both Hong Kong teams in the round games. We bettered Malaysia in the semi with a come-from-behind win… and then the home team Eagles in the GF by a single point!
It was the tournament that made Asia take notice of the Swannies and proved we could beat any team in Asia on our day. Bart Schneeman’s two late goals to beat Malaysia going down as two of the most memorable goals in our history. Jimmy Bairstow “the bald bloke I had lunch with” a well deserved player of the tournament.
4) Community Support
Every year the Swannies support a range of charities. We’ve had a long-standing partnership with Swim Vietnam, kicking off around the start of the decade. We’ve also supported Centre for Protection of Children in Vung Tau, Loreto and Niem Son School, amongst a range of other worthy causes.
Along the way, there have been some huge highlights.
- Raising 25K at the Swing to Swim Charity Golf Day in Danang.
- Raising AUD36K for the Queensland flood victims
- Raising USD3K for the Black Saturday Bushfires
- Merrick Watts getting over to Vietnam for a comedy shows and a Grand Final hosting gig
We work collaboratively, relying on the support of local volunteers and giving back to local causes where we can. The whole community around Vung Tau have been great partners, including the lads from the Vung Tau Veterans and Friends Children’s Fund.
5) Local Development Grows
We’d had a Vietnamese presence in the Swans since the early parts of the decade, typically through Australians and American expats with Vietnamese heritage, but it wasn’t until 2014 when our first full-blooded, locally-raised Vietnamese began regularly playing games and touring with us.
Now we’ve got a regular crew, touring every game. Some have even progressed to represent their country in AFL Asia events, including Asian Lions representatives Doan Dang, Dinh Anh Nguyen and Vinh Le. They’re inspiring the next generation (and helping translate the Ozzy ramblings of successive coaches).
Not long after, we had a full local development squad. Each week, up to 30 or more participants would join us!
We were very happy to then announce the debut of the Ha Dong Hois for AFLX Hanoi in November 2019. Closing out the year with our very first all-Vietnamese team was the realisation of a journey that we’d be on for several years!
6) The Swans Host the Asian Champs
Hosting the Asian Champs in 2016 was a big step up for the Swans. Finding a ground suitable for two fields and a full day’s play wasn’t easy, but the Committee of the day and a team of volunteers somehow pulled it off to wide-spread praise.
Of course, the Committee of the day took it one step further, adding games for the emerging groups that are now a big part of the AFL Asia fixtures: the 2016 Champs saw the debut of AFLW and Local teams.
The AFLW game was contested between a strong group of women living in Vietnam and a few visitors. This game set the scene for the launch of AFLW in Asia, only a few short seasons later.
If the 2016 Saigon champs wasn’t already big enough, why not also host the first ever locals only AFL international tournament in history the day before!
The Swannies played an instrumental role in this great day for AFL Asia’s local development efforts. The Indonesian Garudas proved too strong for the China Reds and a combined Team IndoChina coached by Andrew Embley and Brad Seymour, with Swannies local representatives doing us proud.
Shortly after winning the AFL Grand Final in a rampage over the Sydney Swans, the Bulldog’s Libba arrived in Saigon and promptly set the town alight for the 2016 Asian Champs.
Despite all the news of debut games of women’s footy and local footy, that weekend will likely be recorded as Libba’s. The coverage of Libba’s antics put the Swannies and footy in Asia in the headlines like never before… and still does the rounds.
8) The Birth of #AFLW in Asia
Hot on the heels of the 2016 debut of women’s footy at the Asian Champs, 2018 saw the expansion of the league to include #AFLW. It took off quickly! The inaugural teams included the Cambodian Apsaras, Malaysian Warrior Women, Hong Kong Dragons and our very own Lady Swans. New teams have followed across the region!
Of course, we couldn’t forget to mention the Lady Swans triumph at the 2018 Asian Champs, where they claimed the inaugural AFLW title!
The level of local participation in the Lady Swans was another huge result for a team in only its first year.
We spoke to a few of the Ladies about what the win meant to them: you can read more at the 2018 Asian Champs Wrap Up.
9) A Breakthrough Win for the Mens at the 2019 Asian Champs
The Asian Champs has evolved considerably over the past decade as AFL Asia’s participant numbers have surged by 10x. In the old days of a single division, it was very difficult for the emerging clubs to challenge the established powers: Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Just consider: the Swan’s campaign amongst the top flight teams in 2016 ended without a single win.
The shift to multiple divisions in the years that followed was a huge opportunity for the Swans to play against other teams with smaller expat communities and without the resources to fly in talent for the occasion. We seized that opportunity with a Division 2 win in 2019… the boys had barely lost a game in two seasons, and this was just rewards.
We’ll be up to Division 1 in 2020!
10) Establishment of Hall of Fame and Life Memberships
The Club moved to recognise some of its long-serving contributing members back in 2016. These are the men and women who’ve strived to build the Club over the past 20 or so years of the Clubs existence, right back to the days of the Hanoi Hawks and Saigon Swans.
While there are currently 22 Hall of Fame and Life Members, we’ll continue to add to these in coming years! Here’s to another amazing decade in the future!