Regular columnist, Damo, reviews last weekend’s ANZAC Day match in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, against the Thailand Tigers.
ANZAC Day 2009 marked a very special week for the Vietnam Swans and “Asian Footy”. The Swans made the trek to Kanchanaburi, Thailand for an experience described by the National Prez as a “rocking chair memory” (the one you will remember when you’re 80 years old, sitting on the verandah in your rocking chair as you reflect upon your life).
The Day began with most of the touring party of 34 making the 3.30am bus – but a little bleary eyed after a midnight arrival. However, we were very primed for the day’s events. The usual gaggle was made much more respectable by the women: Cath, Lek, Kels, Kerri, Linda and Fleur who were willing to “put up” with a footy weekend.
First up was the Dawn Service at the Hellfire Pass Memorial on the Death Burma Railway – such a tranquil place if not for the memory of the horror experienced there. For those who didn’t know the full story, the place and history was made real thanks to the personal presentation on the bus by Patrick Stringer (part of our touring party) whose father was an ex POW.
After the traditional Gunfire Breakfast (Anzac biscuit and a shot of Bundaberg rum), we returned to our hotel for a quick and hearty meal. We then attended a second service at the War Cemetery with wreaths being laid by the Thailand Tigers, the Vietnam Swans and representatives of the other four clubs that have played Thailand on ANZAC Day. Perhaps the most powerful moment was when ex POW Bill Haskell OAM delivered his speech.
Truly memorable events
At the ground the crowd numbered a few hundred with special VIP guests including 3 ex POWs, a few Diggers and some home town fans on an ANZAC tour. The atmosphere oozed comraderie thanks to the special events of the day and the mighty organizational efforts of the Tiges.
Having being beaten in our last encounter, the Tigers were well prepared on their home turf and weren’t planning on giving us any breaks. Their troupe even included personnel to keep stats on individual players. Unheard of – but I like it! The Swans might consider applicants for this position providing they are willing to accept donations from Potsy and others to add some creative and entertaining flavor to their stats.
Our defenses were under the hammer right from the first horn. The defensive line, led by Big Dave at centre half back, with some great marking prowess, made it difficult for them. However, on too many occasions, our guys just had to watch the ball fly overhead and through the goals thanks to some thumping kicks by Huey from way down centre field that would challenge a cruise missile for distance and accuracy.
When the Tigers charged through on the run, our last line of defense was first-time Swan, Youngie. Youngie wins the award for “Dirtiest on Ground” without any other challengers coming close. The author could not quite see if he “dirtied up” by diving after the Tigers’ shadows or by cooling off in a mud puddle after overheating chasing their lightning fast and capable full forward.
Other awards this week include the “self pity” award with dual nominees, Matt & Nick, who both had encounters with the infamous Yoda. Nick for getting cruelly tackled by such a little man and Matt for being clean slower than someone twice his age and never actually seeing Yoda’s face. Don’t feel too bad guys, Yoda did have the force on his side. And, prior to this article, nobody really noticed as you both had plenty of ball all over the field.
Please note, Gus has missed nominations for this award for the first time after putting in a solid farewell game. Farewell also to Muzza who finished with so much heart it put him on a stretcher with his knee joint bent at an unnatural angle. Nothing taken from Muzza’s sacrifice for the team… but rumor has it that his injury was an attempt to slow him down instigated by Willie. Willie, who has forever had a crush on him, just could never catch him.
Also of note were the performances of Paul K and Mickey J who both have years on Yoda. They managed to run around in the sweltering conditions of Asian footy, described by ex POW Snow as being “unbelievable” and keep up with the young fellas – and still not die.
In the centre the skill was there but not quite the pace with Mango and his team mates leaving us a step behind on a few too many occasions. Our on-ballers still provided plenty of hard-crunching contests for the crowd right in front of the stand. Damo (who knows better than to write about himself but is tired of his team mates, Monkey and Willie constantly headlining) has proof that despite being outrun, he was never out of the race with impact bruising on his tackling shoulder and both arms. There were even official complaints by the Tigers’ centres that evening of being attacked by an unsavory herd of angry rhinos. A few less pizzas and a few more yards on the training paddock might have made the difference and is needed by some before next game (Shags will let everybody know who they are).
Up forward the guys showed heart but I think the grass was growing faster than the numbers on our side of the scoreboard. To be fair they didn’t have a lot to work with. We did miss the towering might and scrapping ability of our unnamed regulars who know who they are and didn’t make the trip. But, they have promised to make up for their absence in the upcoming clashes against Jakarta.
In the end the Tigers scripted the score and there was nothing we could do to change it. It was a walloping.
Nonetheless Coach Drew was proud of us and made us feel that the scoreline does not tell the real story.
Drew’s dad has to be proud of him for finally dislodging the iron grip Monkey seemed to have on the BOG honours.
Thanks again to our National Sponsors: Linfox, Loscam, Jim Beam, Pest Free, renow.com.vn, White Mint, Odyssey Resources, Crown Relocations, SOS International and La Vie Water. Their year-long support goes a long way to ensuring that we can continue to put together unforgettable events.
Thank you to the Thailand Tigers for organizing such an incredible weekend.