The Swans have finally performed in front of their Southern home crowd in 2015 and thanks to the Cambodian Eagles, nobody would have left disappointed.  After taking on and beating the Asian Champions Singapore (in Vung Tau for the ANZAC Day Friendship Match), Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines (all in the successful Manila Cup campaign) in recent months, the Swans were absolutely itching to take on eternal rivals the Cambodian Eagles at RMIT.

The Eagles, however, made the cannon ball run with their own ideas. A unique squad of big bodied Aussies and assorted expats, combined with hard running indigenous Cambodian players, gave the Swans more than a few headaches and will be tough to conquer at home next week. The Swans actually started out with the ascendency using the back door handball to set up players like Tom Doer, Nath Milner and co. to target forward options including the twin Tims, Danang’s favorite son Jason Carter and Marty Crimmins. Wayward kicking meant the Swans weren’t able to fully capitalize on this momentum until coach Andy Glendinning stood up to kick the game’s first goal – a feat he’s regularly accomplished this season.  Going into quarter time the Swans were a few goals up and many at the ground were thinking “how far Swannies?”

The Eagles came back hard early in the second, kicking goals from both in and under the Swannies defense at stoppages and from outside streaming through the middle. With a few of the more experienced Eagles falling to injury, the Khmer Krew switched on. A half forward line of small and speedy players left the Swans defenders struggling to find the right match ups. The Khmer inexperience was easily overcome by enthusiasm and impressively, a desire to contest every ball. All of a sudden the Eagles bench found voice and the Swannies started to get rattled. At the half time break the Eagles were within 2 goals and the weary Swannies would have to be careful to come out from an extended Auskick break fresh or risk being stood up on their home turf.

The Swans did settle after half time with the defensive half led by Tim Pickert, first gamer Sean Campbell, and Nath Milner beginning to get significant rebound penetration. Trent Davies and Dan Morrison also shut down the Eagles dangerous full forward line making scoring almost impossible for the Eagles. The Swans still didn’t convert as well as they could have, but managed to grab a bit of breathing space.

The last quarter gave the Eagles one more chance to fight back and they did. Across the field. The game turned into an end to end battle with Swans first gamers Pierre Braun getting into plenty of the play across the middle and Rampaging Roy Horgan stepping up to bang home 2 sealing goals and having the chance to do even more.  As much as the Eagles battled, they couldn’t find in-roads to the Swans margin finishing a highly competitive 11 points down.

The day also saw Saigon’s first international Auskick game, with a traveling team of youngsters from Australia taking on the Saigon Colts during the half time break. Prior to the game, the Auskick kids and a team of enthusiastic Dads introduced some Vietnamese kids to the unique ball through kicking and hand-pass drills. There was certainly some promising skills on display from the kids, and the success of this (despite the exodus of many kids due to the school holidays) is testament to the huge amount of time, effort and passion given week-in, week-out by Swannies legend Kev Hornblower (who also umpired the main game). We hope to see Auskick become a regular feature in Swans home games in the future, and encourage anyone with kids in HCMC to get involved in this.

The Spotted Cow was the centre of HCMC on Saturday night and as always Andy and the team put on a great feed and drink session. The Swans continued their horrible run of form in the boat race with both the Ladies Saigon Gaels and Eagles finishing full glasses ahead. Tom Doer added another BOG to his season for slotting goals all day through the midfield. The Khmer Krew couldnt be split for the BOG with their collective influence renewing Vietnamese enthusiasm to continue working on local development. These guys will continue to bring Cambodian footy forward in years to come and all of Asian footy will benefit.

The Return trip to Phnom Penh on 18th July shapes as a classic. The Swans will have to pick up their game to hold onto an aggregate win and take out bragging rights for the 2015 season. Cambodia will feel confident with their away performance, and with a few more players available at home will be pushing hard to knock off the visitors.

(Photo credit: Ross McRae)