In 2004, Swans President, Dave Kainey who lived a previous life with the Jakarta Bintangs, spoke to his charges at Hanoi’s dust bowl, Dead Cat Stadium.
He spoke of the wonders of the “Asian Championships” competition. Everyone looked on goggle-eyed wondering how it was possible for such a competition to be stitched together every year in Asia. Do they really play footy at such a level in Asia?
Last year, 2007, the Vietnam Swans, wearing our Sydney Swans jumper made our debut at the Champs in Bangkok. In the “Thirst for the First Tour” (we were sponsored by Jim Beam!), we were able to generate enough interest to have more than 40 people in our touring party. We came from Hanoi, Saigon, Quang Nghi, Tianjin (China), Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. We created a piece of history.
Thanks to Sam Grigg’s forward thinking, that piece of history is commemmorated in the form of his specially made footy boots that were signed by each person on that tour.
This year, the 6 boys from Lao, who played for the Vietnam Swans last year, deserted us… Inspired by last year’s run with the Swans at the Champs, they went out and created the Lao Elephants team. Since then, the Swans have played the Elephants twice - in Hanoi last year in the Indochina Cup and last July in Vientiane. And now, they were fielding their own team at the Champs. It was a fantastic effort by Marty Sharples and his team mates.
In 2008, the Vietnam Swans arrived at our second Champs full of confidence - and wearing our own, unique footy jumper (that is currently in a competition for Australia’s Favourite Footy Jumper). This year the touring party was just under 40. Of our 31 players, only 10 were at last year’s Champs. Vietnam has a very transient nature but, the fact that we had 31 players is strong evidence of our ability to now recruit locally from Hanoi and Saigon (we still had Eggo from Cambodia). We are getting stronger.
Last year Sam was fined for bringing “sand (Miss Emma) to the beach”. This year, Danny brought Jo and the whole family; Nathan brought Struth Ruth; Issac brought Bec: Big Joe brought Little Lek. Then there was Claire (Hanoi Treasurer) and Jo M (Hanoi Secretary). Kevan Dacey flew in from Australia to help out the team again with his mate, Roger; Drew’s father, Tony, together with another Claire, were cruising through Singapore…
We had former Presidents Francis and Kainey on this tour. We even had Mr Tung from Hanoi who became the first Vietnamese citizen to play at an Asian Champs. As well as a growing history we have an exciting future.
Trav Fennell recently remarked that small businesses take 3, 4 or 5 years to really start getting traction. You can’t help but get a similar feeling that as a Club, the Swannies may be following a similar route.
Our first match against Thailand was strong but we missed out by less than a goal. Our second match against the Hong Kong Dragons was inspiring. It was stirring. Perhaps the highlight was the ferocious tackling - something that we haven’t put much focus on in training. It put the reigning premiers under intense pressure from which the likes of Eggo could swoop and boot goals on the run - but we missed out by a single goal.
The Dubai Heat who went on to win the tournament, were just too good for us. And then those Lao Elephants got over the line in front of us to claim their second victory in their Asian Champs debut.
But anyone seeing the match against Hong Kong would know that, while we failed to win on the scoreboard, we have been winning everywhere else. Soon the scoreboard will be an accurate reflection.
There are many people to thank for this tour which will be done in another entry, but one person to be singled out is the Saigon President and Coach of the tour, Scotty Stacey. As well as on the day, he did a truck load of work behind the scenes in the lead up.
Well done Swannies!