The Vietnam Swans accompanied the Saigon Ladies Gaels to Phnom Penh last weekend for the first international women’s AFL match in Asia (and possibly the world?) against the Cambodian Apsaras women’s AFL team.
The Swans played against off-field friends and on-field rivals the Cambodian Eagles as a curtain raiser, before the women’s teams took the field for the main event.
Many of the Gaels played in last year’s women’s feature match at the 2016 Asian Championships in Ho Chi Minh City, and their experience with the oval ball became clear when they dominated the historic match at the International School of Phnom Penh on Saturday, winning by 4 goals in front of a large and enthusiastic Phnom Penh crowd.
The Swans weren’t so fortunate, going down by 10 goals against the Eagles after a dismal first half made any chance of a comeback almost impossible.
Gaels pressure shuts down the Apsaras
From the opening bounce it was clear that the Apsaras would need to work extremely hard to push the ball down the ground, with the Gaels applying terrific pressure across the board.
Heather Turkle and Heather Julien proved that their time spent training with the Saigon Geckos rugby club was well worth it, laying some crunching tackles that shocked the Apsaras, wowed the Swans and stunned the onfield commentator on more than one occasion.
In other areas of the field, the trio of Laura Gallagher, Jess Daniels and Jo Salmon were able to easily dive into the contests and clear the ball, ensuring that the Gaels regained possession for most of the game.
Mairead Scanlon capitalised on her teammates efforts to get the ball into the goal square, scoring three goals and clearly relishing the one-on-one battle at full forward.
The Apsaras were held goalless for the first half, but both teams enjoyed more scoring opportunities later in the match as players started to tire under the intense Cambodian sun.
Saigon Gaels 5-2-32
Cambodian Apsaras 1-0-6
Best (chosen by Cambodia): Mairead Scanlon, Laura Gallagher, Heather Turkle
Eagles prove too quick for the Swans
The Swans simply couldn’t match the intensity of the Cambodian Eagles in the first few quarters. Despite winning plenty of possession in the first quarter, the Swans couldn’t capitalise due to skill errors and a poor decision making – proving that the Swans simply shouldn’t play matches that start at 11AM.
Swans debutant Grant Richardson was a shining light in the midfield with numerous clearances but the pressure from the Cambodian players meant it was hard to break free and get into the Swans forward line.
The pressure on the Swans backline was fierce, with several of the Khmer players from the Eagles breaking free from their Swans opponents and taking clear shots on goal – piling on six unanswered goals in the second quarter alone, and highlighting the lack of speed that the Swans were able to bring this time on tour.
After a well deserved spray at halftime from coach Al Shiells, the Swans finally started to wake up and apply heavier defensive pressure in the third quarter, limiting the Eagles scoring shots but the damage had already been done.
In the forward line, Brad McNamara (Macca) got his first goals in his first match as a Swannie, scoring two in the second half after a few wide shots on goal earlier in the match. Oliver Du Rieu also enjoyed a stellar game in the midfield with plenty of aggression and second efforts, scoring a goal himself.
Captain Bill Crang commanded from the backline in his recently-favoured full back position, rebounding the ball back into the midfield more frequently as the game went on.
Rubbing salt into the wound, the Swans ended up with injuries to backman Evan Koch (concussion) and Tom Niit (shoulder).
Vietnam Swans 3-9-27
Cambodian Eagles 13-9-87
Best (chosen by Cambodia): Grant Richardson, Tuan Nhan, Chris Salmon
Swans keen for revenge on ANZAC Day
The Swans will have a chance for redemption at the 8th ANZAC Friendship Match in Vung Tau in late April, when the Cambodian Eagles will make the bus trip over the border and look to continue their recent winning form against the Swans.
It will be the first time that Cambodia will play the coveted match at the historical Vung Tau ground, which has been seen as the flagship match within AFL Asia across the busy ANZAC Day weekend.
The Cambodian Eagles were fortunately able to accept the tour at relatively short notice, filling in for the Philippine Eagles which had to pull out of the match due to low numbers.
Vietnam Swans President Eric Kerrison was grateful for the enthusiasm that the Cambodian Eagles showed for the ANZAC Day match:
“The Swans and Eagles have enjoyed a close rivalry over recent years, with the annual home-and-away Cannonball Run series a touring highlight for both squads. We’re indebted to the Eagles for accepting our invitation to the 8th ANZAC Friendship Match and look forward to a huge match in Vung Tau.”
ANZAC Day 2017 Details
The 8th ANZAC Day Friendship Match will be held at the Vung Tau Greyhound Racing Track, on Saturday April 22nd. The onfield events will include:
- A women’s AFL match between Cambodia and Vietnam,
- The Commbank Cup (featuring the Lagler Legends vs the Al Fresco’s All-Stars), and
- Concluding with the Friendship Match between the Vietnam Swans and Cambodian Eagles.
The onfield action will be followed by the annual Macmillan Dinner that evening, which will include the Middleton Address, fundraising of auction items and raffle items for our charities, and a X-hour food and drink package supplied by our Official Venue of the Vietnam Swans in Vung Tau, Tommy’s Bar.
Stay tuned for further details of the day by liking the Vietnam Swans on Facebook or signing up for the mailing list from the front page of the website!