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Ron Vernon, 1967 VFL Player, speaks

Posted by Vietnam Swans on April 23, 2011

Ron Vernon, 1967 Premiership Player, will be there for today's match.

Ron Vernon is a 1967 Premiership Player in the Vietnam Football League. Today he shares his thoughts on the 2011 ANZAC Friendshop Match.

Thank you to the Swannies for inviting me to share my thoughts about the ANZAC Friendship Match and the footy I played, on the very same oval, as a member of the RAAF team which won the first Services Premiership in 1967.

To state the obvious, we were probably somewhat younger than today’s player – our average would have been 21 or 22, but I believe the spirit of the game and the camaraderie are just as strong now, if not stronger.

This is very significant given the two entirely different circumstances by which the two groups came to be resident in Vietnam.

We were a very mixed group of blokes who were all permanent Air Force but, until meeting in the brotherhood of Aussie Rules football, had lead totally different lives – our most common denominator was our residency in a country far from home and a passion for playing sport.

We were a rag tag bunch of players with many having limited knowledge, let alone experience in playing Aussie Rules.

RAAF personnel were posted to Vietnam individually and not in large groups as the Army was. Generally speaking, the Army blokes were younger and had had more experience in playing Aussie Rules as a recreational sport before they left Australia.

The Padre was our coach and soon knocked us into some shape and eventually turned us into a team good enough on the day to win the flag that first year.

Some of the action at the Lord Mayor's Oval, late 60s.

During that time, most games were 14 a side with matches played on Sunday morning (funny – the Padre must have wanted to get out of Sunday Services too) and were followed by a BBQ and a few ales at Back Beach where there was nothing but sand and water – quite a difference to what is there today and there was no Badcoe Club at that time either.  We had some really memorable times, which, for a short time, allowed us to put the war on the backburner and become ordinary blokes playing weekend sport.

In 1965 I was based in Thailand at Ubon Rachitane on a little known operational base. We also played Aussie Rules, soccer and anything which involved kicking or throwing a ball and having a coldie or two afterwards to ward off dehydration.

Returning today to the old oval and seeing the young blokes go around and enjoying their footy, and more importantly, the fellowship of the team, mates who live and work in very diverse areas, does an old bloke’s heart good and makes me wish I could pull on my old footy boots and have a go!

Good luck, congratulations and thank you to organizers, sponsors and players for allowing me and my family to share in this ANZAC Friendship Match Footy experience. I hope the tradition not only survives but thrives for a long time to come.

Honk!  Honk!  IT’S A HOOT!

Ron Vernon
1967 Premiership Player, RAAF Team

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