The 2017 Central Vietnam Games moved an half an hour down the road from Danang to the beautiful and sunny Hoi An. Well perhaps 95% of the time sunny Hoi An. Club major sponsor Travis Fennell (Wide Eyed Tours and Beachside Boutique Hotel) was instrumental in securing the new field (a very capable future AFL Asia’s international match venue) and once again the sports of AFL, Rugby Union, Netball and Touch Football were united in one battle for glory.
We will focus on what is the highlight of the day for the Swans, the Phil Johns Cup. A no holds barred hitout between regular team mates over the never ending North vs South split in Vietnam. Also a great spirited weekend of great sports and even better banter now at some amazing Beachside locations.
The match has always been a close encounter and this year was no different. Following a poor turnout of Southern Gaelic players most of the South had a full 40 minutes of chasing the Northern Irish contingent under their belts before the game started. Normally this could hurt your chances in Asian footy but with the Melbourne like intermittent showers and blustery breeze it posed no problem.
What did pose a problem from the outset was the very familiar and unfamiliar faces that took the game straight to the somewhat shell-shocked southerners. An almost previously unseen and dubiously Northern based midfield pack led by the only verified Hanoian Irish Tom in the ruck dictated terms to a Southern midfield made up of mostly experienced Swans on ballers and effectively threw the Southerners plans into a heap. In defense the South was too often getting caught up in overlaps enabling some old hands in Micky Francis (Vietnam Backpacker Hostels and Hanoian Chief of Recruitment), Travis Fennel and Eric ‘Kerro’ Kerrison accompanied by some new support in Shane showing some blistering pace and Tim Lovell to create plenty of attacking opportunities. A few bright spots for the South included new recruit Tom Jordan showing no issues adapting from his Rugby background to AFL providing key defensive rebounding throughout. He will be a huge asset to the Swans 2018 tilt. Dan Morrison, in his last hit out as a resident (for now) the Swans glue down back and without him the game may have been settled by half time.
Up the other end the South also seemed rattled by the intensity and went forward with doubt that could be blamed on the weather if only the other team weren’t doing it with such ease. Several squandered scoring shots didn’t help matters.
At half time the North had a few goal lead. Given the dependence on some guys who haven’t been sighted outside a bar in near on 7 years there was still reason to believe for the South. A few third term goals seemed to provide some belief before a spirited Northern offensive turned the game on its head sending them into 3 quarter time 3 goals up. Given the tough conditions some Southern heads were certainly being scratched during the break.
All that consternation seemed to work with the South marginally winning the early exchanges of the last quarter and grinding out 3 goals to draw gain a slender lead. A period of back and forth goals from Kerro (North), Vaughan (South) kept the game on a knife edge when Hanoi kicked another to take back the lead they’d held almost all game. The game was there for the taking and it would be a case of who wanted it more. The South defending their reputations and unblemished hold on the coveted Phil Johns Cup or the North who have been close before but never managed to get over the line in a CVG match – did their brainstrust have one last trick up their sleeve to curtail the Southern desperation?
It turns out they did. In a last second attempt to pinch the game the South moved forward with more confidence than had been seen all game. A wide ball into the pocket was centred to the hotspot with 3 Southerners unopposed ready to ice the game. An experienced head would be the best option amongst the multiple Southern would be match winners and so it was, The Swans only standing Hanoi Hawk survivor clasped the unopposed mark seconds before the siren. The Saigon resident of 9 years has never uttered a word about his previous life in the Red North so most of the Southern players were already patting themselves on the back for taking the game out of the salivating mouth of their intra country rivals as GUS went back 20 metres in front of the wider than normal goals. What happened next was by far the best piece of gamesmanship ever pulled off in a North v South game. GUS obviously employed as a Northern spy calmly pushed the shot through to the far side turning an unmissable goal into a point leaving the South 3 points short and accepting their first ever CVG AFL match loss.