With the loss of Rampaging Roy Horgan to the beaches of Japan and the impending nuptials of Bill Crang, VietnamSwans.com turns to Rod Stone for his take on the weekend’s game against the mighty Malaysian Warriors. All photos courtesy of Ling Teo from the Malaysian Warrior Women.
Over to you Rod!
New City for an Old Rivalry
Historic Penang was the venue for perhaps the toughest test of the Swan’s 2018 schedule. Fresh off series wins against both Cambodia and Thailand, it was never going to be an easy task taking on the Malaysian Warriors. As last year’s Division 1 Asian Championship winners, they have a reputation as a seasoned, talented team.
The opening message from coach Rod “Rocket” White was simple. Stick to our game plan, remember our training drills, win the quarter, and just keep running.
We’d expected a tough game and the Warriors certainly didn’t disappoint. After narrowly winning the first two quarters and taking a small lead into half time, the Warriors hit back in the third quarter to lead by just a couple of goals at the final break.
A fairly direct message from Rocket spurred us on to come back in the final quarter. The Swans surged in response, turning around the deficit and leading by 7 points with 5 minutes to go.
As the game ebbed and flowed, both teams had chances to win. With less than a minute to go, the Swans lead was down to a single point… only for the game to end in a draw.
Any footy player is obviously disappointed to fall just short of the win. At the end of the game I’m sure every player thought of that one extra thing we could have done, or not done, to avoid the draw and get us over the line.
Nonetheless, touring wins are very hard to come by and the result cements a solid first half to the Swan’s season. Every player is pretty pumped with where the Club is at and the series of results against Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia positions us well for the tournaments to follow later this year.
With Dinh Anh and Dang away in Shanghai, little Vinh Quang Le opened the game with what was undoubtedly his greatest quarter of football for the Vietnam Swans. Several times from the far wing he chased, tackled blokes much bigger than himself, won the ball and then showed composure to wait for team mates to assist. Awesome job mate…it’s always great to see a team mate win free kicks from tackles. Just like Mark Doherty’s bone-rattling hit in Kanchanaburi, Vinh’s efforts got us off to the right start.
Best on ground James Bairstow was inspirational in the backline. His second and third efforts as he spoiled almost everything that came his way, broke packs, took on the tackler and surged forward through the half back line was team lifting. I’ve now learnt that when JB has the ball on the full back line that it won’t be long until it is on the half forward line. His organisation of the team from the full back line certainly helps us to man up or block the space when the ball is coming back the other way.
In a tight game, the whole backline provided highlights. Vaughan Swart shut each of his opponents out of the game completely. I lost count of how many times Tom Holden tackled and created turnovers… at one stage he must have had 100% strike rate. That type of chasing and tackling sucks the energy out of the opposition players and re-distributes it to our team. Every tackle you laid lifted us…great to watch.
It’s great to watch these players do their job and to see the knock on effect it has for our team. Every single time the ball went deep it into the Warriors forward line, these boys were within inches of their man, spoiled everything in the air and never gave them an easy possession. Add Damian Judd, Trent Davies and Luke Turner (who took two really important marks late in the game) to these guys for support and this is why our defence was so good and set up the result.
Hometown great mate of mine, Micka Matthews was a battering ram all day, busting through packs, picking up and dishing out plenty of knocks, and continued to gut run on an empty tank. One passage of play in the final quarter summed up Micka’s day where he contested a pack on the half back line and after three consecutive contested efforts he won the ball and released it through the centre. Just seconds before this, Micka was physically spent…and just minutes after he gave chase for 40 metres up the near wing just to add enough pressure to force an opposition error.
I just met the beard brigade of Tom Doer and Luke Philpot the morning of the game and to be honest they looked like twins on the field to me so I couldn’t tell you which one played the better game! However, the two beards seemed to be around me all day… talking, supporting and calling for the ball at exactly the right time for us less experienced guys to get it to them. Every time the ball came near they seemed to be streaming down the field one either side of the play to drive the ball into the forward line. It’s a great feeling to have blokes like you guys right next us on the field.
Big Oscar Silk was a target all day for us. I’m starting to understand his role better and the role of the other forwards around him. If Oscar is anywhere near the 50 metre arc he is a chance with his beautiful long kick for goal.
Sha Mac and Dave Barbeler also had a job to do and I think they really enjoyed just clearing the path and taking out whoever was in our way. Our smaller blokes seem to gain confidence to be involved close in the packs knowing that these bigger bodied guys are beside them when the ball hits the ground.
Thomas Delaney the Irishman was competitive in the ruck and strong in the air all day, despite some notoriously tough opposition. They had some very tall players and you were still enormous giving us every chance out of the centre and at each stoppage.
Andrew Glendinning showed us how to make space and run around players with his silky smooth demeanour on several occasions coming off the half back line. He just always seems to have so much time when he gets the ball and I don’t understand why the opposition can’t touch him…! Experience like this can not be purchased.
In his first outing for the Swans, Jack gave us fresh legs and high visibility boots in the second half so we always knew where he was and what he was doing! It was great to have another bloke to change with in that second half as fatigue set in: it was great to have Jack involved as part of a strong and growing group of northerners!
Kevin Wilkinson had no second thoughts about diving onto a pack to help wrap up an opposition player and cause a stoppage…that piece of play was great to watch. After that stoppage we went on to score a goal. It proves that one small act from any one of us has the potential to end up impacting the scoreboard.
Finally, our coach Rocket backs up every word that he preaches to us at training on the field. Always seems to make position when the ball goes forward, and if he is behind he manages to bring the ball to ground without giving away the free kick. Left foot, right foot…it doesn’t matter…and to watch him do everything that he tells us to do at training makes me realise how important training really is. I just wish I could have got onto your pass deep into the goal square in the third quarter…your effort deserved me to get there and take the mark. I’ll learn from that.
For me it was my third game for the Swans. My pre game plan was fairly simple and was centered around one thing…fellow Swan, Ben Ronke (of the Sydney variety). Last week in his third game against Hawthorn he was the unheard of and unlikely hero who announced himself on the scene in their 8 point win by kicking 7 individual goals. That was the plan for my third game also, but it was not to be… I fell short by 7. But what I did manage to do was stay out of the forward’s space, I enjoyed a few bumps, and I’m starting to understand my role a little better.
It’s an absolute pleasure to be part of this club. In four short months you guys have made me feel welcomed, valued and involved. A real bond is forming in this team amongst the players and it’s great to be a part of it. I’m loving the Swannies…!