On 23 September 2005, Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper ran a story about the then Hanoi Swans in the lead up to the cracking Sydney Swans Vs West Coast Grand Final. The article records a great piece of history for the Hanoi Swans.
You may not think Bobby Skilton and Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton prison have much in common.
But when the ball is first bounced in tomorrow’s Grand Final, cheers will go up in the Bobby Skilton Room at the former North Vietnam war prison as members of the Hanoi Swans Football Club urge on their beloved Bloods.
The Triple Brownlow medalist’s name is above the door at a five star bar (JASPAS, still the home of the Vietnam Swans Grand Final Party in Hanoi) on the site of the old jail.
In 2003, a group of expats in Vietnam revived the defunct Hanoi Hawks Aussie Rules team. They renamed them the Swans and adopted the red and white jumper.
Michael Francis, brother of former Richmond and Collingwood player, Matthew, is the heart and soul of the Hanoi Swans.
Even though he’s a Carlton tragic, he introduced the Bobby Skilton Trophy for the 2003 tri nations series in Hanoi between the Swans, Hong Kong Dragons and eventual winners, Thailand Tigers, that re established Australian footy in communist Vietnam.
With a tournament motto of “Hanoi footy: took Marx, got hammered and sickled”, the Swans raised the Aussie Rules flag on bamboo goal posts after a last minute search for a ground. “With 48 hours to go until the rebirth of Aussie Rules in Hanoi (and Vietnam), we didn’t have an oval”, Francis said.
“We ended up going to a Japanese industrial park outside Hanoi and asking a young Vietnamese bloke in the management office if we could use the soccer ground.
“Bugger me, the first thing this young bloke said was, “Are you sure it’s big enough for Australian football? It’s nothing like the MCG”.
“Turns out he’d studied in Melbourne and had been to a few games. So we were saved and since then, we haven’t looked back.
“The blokes are busy selling tickets for the Bobby Skilton Room on Saturday to raise money for the revenge trip to Bangkok to take on those fluky Tigers.”
History went on to record that on that last Saturday in September in 2005, it was the Sydney Swans who were to triumph. They beat the West Coast Eagles by just 4 points.
The great photo to the left with Bobby Skilton going onto the MCG after the match was forwarded to the great man.
Mr Skilton, himself, then wrote to the then Hanoi Swans Pres, Daryl Taber and said:
Phil Johns has probably told you that I am not too good at this e-mail caper. Even so I will do my best to say a very genuine thank you for both your e-mail and the mounted photos.
My wife thought that much of the shot of you guys with myself on the screen that it now sits neatly on the shelf behind the bar very close to what is now my pride and joy- a mini Premiership Cup that the club recently sent to me. It is a replica of the real thing with the team and my name on it, just sensational.
I think it is great to have a Bobby Skilton Bar and you may be sure that if either I or my boys manage to get to Hanoi at any time you will certainly know and have us in the bar.
All the best to all involved. Thank you once again.
It’s Grand Final time and rest assured, you’re not the only one getting goose bumps. For details on the Vietnam Swans 2009 AFL Grand Final Parties being held in Saigon, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An, click here.