On 31 July 2010, the Vietnam Swans played the Cambodian Cobras in Phnom Penh. Among the Swannies who made the trip was first timer, and Uncle of Nick Shiells, Big Al. Big Al is a veteran of the Wallsend Swans in Newcastle, and, since returning to Australia, has filed the report below.
I had been planning to visit my favourite nephew in Vietnam, Nick Shiells, and, recently, I finally got off my backside and had the best time.
Nick had pre-warned me of an up coming game of footy in Cambodia and I thought that will be good to see. This turned into, “No, you are playing!”. Even then I shrugged that off – hardly touched a footy for 12 years – and I couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night.
And, as all high profile players do, we arrived in Phnom Penh with a couple of days to acclimatise – and maybe a spy mission on opposition tactics. Yep, we thought of all that stuff at a couple of bars over the next two days.
Game Day seemed to arrive so fast: buses to the ground – still had no adrenalin rush like the old days. No nervous feeling. I think my body was telling me something like, “If you do this, you will be sorry”.
The warm up, mate, I’ve never been knackered at that stage before. So, I was so happy when the game started and I could get a rest. Surprisingly, I made a full recovery from the warm up!
I was more than happy watching the game but then something bad happened and Nick came off. And, on the ground I went. Tried for a routine overhead mark… this was when I realised the gravitational pull in Cambodia was about twice what is usual. So, even as I leapt high for a screamer, my feet dragged on the ground and then, in the next move, I tried to recover the ball from the ferocious Cobras. This was the point where my body did the rejection thing and I tore my calf.
So, I spent the rest of the game on the sidelines feeling a bit out of sorts with my sissy injury.
I have played footy most off my life at different levels and I was very impressed with the friendship shown and the sense of belonging from players, organisers and supporters.
Pretty magic effort from all involved.
Thank you all, Uncle Al.
Below is a Q n A session from Nick with his Uncle:
- What’s the name of this team? Wallsend Swans
- What league are they in? Newcastle
- What division? 1st
- What years did you play there? PLAYER: 1983, 1984 PLAYER/COACH: 1990, 1992, 1996, 1997.
- What is your member status? Life Member
- Are they still around? No – but a junior comp has them in
- Did you guys win any flags? Flags -1890 and 1990 (a 100 year gap)
- Did you win any awards? Runner up best and fairest, most consistent, and a couple of social awards. Coaching… only lost three games in two seasons, My assistant coach played for the Hawks, only 2nds, but in the Hawks glory years.
Uncle Al: What a legend, mate!