The China Reds take an exciting mark in a tightly contested ANZAC Friendship Match. Photo, Mark Stennett Photography.
UPDATE: 29 April 2012. New match photos have been added. .
Ross McRae has prepared the Match Report for the 3rd ANZAC Friendship Match. Further, the first instalment of photos from Mark Stennett Photography of have arrived.
You can view the first instalment on the .
On another sweltering Vung Tau day, two hugely talented teams were about to contest the 3rd ANZAC Friendship Match. The China Reds, comprising of players from the Beijing Bombers and the Shanghai Tigers were about to face one of the strongest Vietnam Swans squads I have had the privilege to bear witness to. With a depth of players spreading across Vietnam; Hanoi, Saigon, Hoi An, and Binh Duong, the leadership group had assembled a highly skilled squad of 22. It would have not been an enviable task to decide on who was to line up today, to bear the honour of the two black armbands in this historic ANZAC Friendship Match versus the China Reds.
With the opening ceremonies concluded; including a welcome from Felicity Sims of the Australian Consulate and national anthems from Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia, a minute’s silence was observed to reflect on the lives lost. Veteran and ex-Vietnam Football League player, Ron Vernon together with Peter Taylor representing his mate, Kev McMillan, took the ball out to umpire Adam McDonald, to begin the match.
The tenacity that the teams attacked the ball from the first bounce, was defining the story that was about to unfold. This game was going to be tough, both physically and mentally. As dependable and reliable as the heat in Vung Tau, the Swans were in familiar territory, on the back foot. The Reds had brought their best, and the long kicking, physically strong players were giving the Swans the match that the previous weeks of training had prepared them for. The backline was working hard shutting down leads and cutting off the penetrating kicks coming in from the Reds midfield, while the Reds accuracy failed them. It was Timmy Clements (who was playing his last game for the Vietnam Swans) who opened the scoring for the Swans. Nick Shiells then closed the gap towards the end of the first quarter, capping off great team play from the mid-field, that had him fist pumping the air and the Swans went into the first break trailing by six minors.
It was now time for Swans Coach, Scotty Turner to organise the now finally warmed up Swans. The white board was like a sail in the Vung Tau harbour as it flashed in the sun as all Swans players drew their attention to it. The crowd was anxious; as the Reds were looking strong and the score line was worrying, as scoring shots were in the favour of the Reds.
China deflects what SOS thought was his.
Both teams were about to distinguish themselves in the second term. They were hungry and determined, with neither team backing down from hard balls or big hits. One such big hit was between teammates Nick Shiells and Adrian Enright as they clashed in a mark, Ado came down with the ball, hitting the ground heavily after hitting the wall which is Nicko. Ado a true battler was soon on his feet in no time. Blood was surely pumping in both teams, so the slip in communication could have been forgiven. The Reds were finding their aim and were keeping the Swans at bay, though Kevin Hornblower was becoming a pest for the Reds in their backline. Bill Crang came straight on from a Scotty masterminded interchange, that had him mark strongly and then awarded extra metres after the Reds player lost his cool. Bill kicked wide for a minor, though quickly redeemed himself when the ball came back to him from the kick in, and he was able to convert. Ryan ‘Revo’ Evans was about to lift and after a crowd pleasing goal, which was a preview of his play yet to come in the third, the Swans went into the half time break two points up. A second term that had a combined total of seven goals kicked by both teams and had the crowd buzzing.
The halftime break allowed the crowd to refresh on drinks and take a breather from the game that was more than just some AFL game played on the inside of a dog track. Both teams retreated from the Vung Tau heat into the Stadium with Coach Scotty once again rallying his troops. Captain Luke Creamer showed why he is once again an inspirational leader both on and off the field; he was not going to have his men’s momentum waver during the break, as they took on water and kept their offensive mind set during the break.
Looking around the crowd, you could see them on edge, not just from having to crane necks around the pillars in the stadium, but with anticipation of the final half of the game.
If the second quarter tactics for the Swans were genius, the third was a masterstroke. The ball moved fluidly around the field, as the defenders led by Sam Conroy and Craig Hewat were shutting down their players and getting under their skin, the rebounding ball found passage through the mid-field led by Captain Dukesy, Heath Ellis, Adrian Enright and Dave O’Shea who were silky, each knowing where each other were and passes were pin point. As the ball moved forward it was ‘Revo’ who was on the ends of these passages. One of his highlight goals coming on an acute angle, from an out on the full free. Not to be left out, Michael ‘MJ’ Johnston would crash through a pack in the goal square to take a strong mark and convert.
Going into the final break, it looked as if the Swans were in control. Whether the heat was having its toll on the Beijing players who had just flown down from snow in their home city; the decisions and player changes of tactician Coach Scotty; or the honour of playing in this prestigious match, the Swans had a firm grip on this match and weren’t looking at slowing down.
Micky J embraces and Dan Hopkins handshakes a former Hanoi Swan, Growds, now of the China Reds.
With the final term beginning cheers went up from the crowd and Kevin Hornblower the ultimate forward who had been bringing down some sensational grabs all game, presented the ball to the crowd and then fired home a goal. Another mention is suitable deserved to Phil Jordan, who, with the calls from his team mates, snapped at goal to put the nail in the coffin. He must have caught his cheek with the hammer, as the medical staff from International SOS had to give him seven stitches for his injury from his wayward swings. The Swans were home, over the Reds by 23 points.
As the final siren faded out across the track, the crowd had just witnessed two teams that had honoured not only the Vets that had first played Australian Rules Football in Vietnam at the Lord Mayors’ Oval back in 1966, but also the participants of those years of conflict. For those Vets that were there on the day, and the men lost over the years, the Swans and Reds had surely just showed the comradeship, mateship, fairness and true grit that those soldiers from both sides of the conflict epitomised those many years ago.
Best on Ground was awarded truly to Ryan Evans for his performance on field that turned the game around and inspired his team mates. Other performances of note were no doubt Captain Dukesy and his Hanoian counterpart Ado, and Sam ‘Hound’ Conroy’s work in defence. It was no doubt a great game to play in and to witness standing in the stadium. I feel my words cannot do true justice to such an event that is the ANZAC Friendship Match and you really had to be present to feel the emotion and spirit that embodied the day.
Vietnam Swans Vs China Reds
Q1 2. 0. 12 (12) 2. 6. 18 (18)
Q2 4. 3. 27 (39) 3. 1. 19 (37)
Q3 4. 1. 25 (64) 1. 4. 10 (47)
Q4 2. 3. 15 (79) 1. 3. 9 (56)
Final Score: 12. 7. 79 7. 14. 56
*** For more photos of the match from Mark Stennett, .