With the recent decision by the Vietnam Swans to play a footy match in Vung Tau on ANZAC Weekend, 24 April 2010, it is a fitting time to remind ourselves of the footy’s earliest years in Vietnam. The unedited passages below, have been taken from .
Australian rules football was first played in Vietnam during the .
A match was played in May 1966 between members of the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
A social game was organised in 1969 by Captain Bill McMahon of , a former and footballer, “Diggers” vs “The Rest” which was played with Vietnamese soldiers in August at the headquarters of the Free World Military Assistance Organisation.
In 1971, Australian Force Vietnam (AFV) and 110 Signal Squadron played a match in organised by Private Conboy of a previous member of Under 19s squad.
There was at least one contest between 110 Signal Squadron and 104 Signal Squadron in 1970, one being played at a police or army academy at the sea-side village of Vung Tau and a little later another between the based units of 104 Signal Squadron and 106 Field Workshops on a pretty rough ground at the Reinforcement Wing at the Dat.
Lance Corporal Ian Granland of 104 Signal Squadron organised a game of Australian Football at Nui Dat in 1970. There weren’t too many grounds of a suitable size on which the game could be played, but luckily it was learned that there was one within the Task Force Area in the area of 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit.
Lance corporal Geoff Morris and Granland did a recce and located the ground. It was big enough for Australian Football and it even had posts erected but the grass literally ranged from 20 cm to 1m in height. That meant that it would have to be cut!
In the meantime Granland organised a game against 106 Field Workshops.
Next job was to locate a slasher. Word of mouth informed the two that 105 Field Battery had an old Massey Ferguson Tractor with which they used to tow their guns around, plus a slasher.
Permission to use it for mowing the ground was given. Morris became the driver and the machine was driven over to the field and he began driving it round and round. He got the grass down reasonably short but certainly not bowling green stuff however good enough. The mowing had to be done the day before the game because any earlier and the grass would have grown significantly enough to require another cut.
This was pre centre square and 50m arcs so a hand mower was used for the goal squares, centre circle and boundary.
Lance Corporal Granland umpired the game.
The players turned up in their Land Rovers and trucks. What jumpers they wore is till a mystery but it certainly wasn’t ’skins v shirts’. There were players of all ages, size and shape and some bloody good footballers amongst them too. A photograph of this game would be a gem today.
104 Signal Squardron won the game. The umpire copped a bit of abuse from the opposition but that was par for the course. It was in the days of the one central umpire.
The out of bounds on the full rule had only just been introduced and of course it was applied. Some of the older heads were not too happy but recognized that it had become a law of the game. Many of the blokes who had probably been pretty fair footballers in their youth but now in their late thirties or so they were no match for youth and speed. Some of these tried to slow the youngsters down by wacking them but the umpire was on top of that.
There was no function after the match or anything, just back to the units. But, it was a good relief because obviously everyone who played etc. just loved the game.
If anybody knows of the whereabouts of any of these footballers from the Vietnam / American War era, please email now.