The Central Vietnam Games, a new initiative led by the Vietnam Swans and held for the first time in Da Nang on 7 March 2015, has successfully raised VND 40 million for local charities.
Born of an excuse to hold an Aussie Rules game in Central Vietnam, someone thought it a good idea to invite a few of our mates s along to join in the fun. When the call went out to Vietnam’s Gaelic, Rugby and Netball clubs late in 2014, there was only one answer that came back, an unequivocal YES!
Despite all obstacles, armies and Tet breaks put in their way, the perseverance and persuasive charm of the Swannies Central Vietnamese contingent of Jason Carter and Michael “MJ “Johnson, working closely with the Vietnam Swans and Central Vietnam Games organising committees, made it happen.
While much fun was had by all on and off the Sơn Trà field, a focus of the day was to raise awareness and funds for the Swans major chairty, Swim Vietnam. Based in Hoi An, Swim Vietnam is charity which reduces child drowning in Vietnam by giving children free swimming lessons and trains adults as swim teachers. VND 20 million was raised for Swim Vietnam through player registrations and their popular drinks tent.
Association Xuân who operate a home for 30 disadvantaged children in Da Nang also participated in the day, with their awesome kids having a great time on the sidelines and raising and additional VND20 million through a raffle.
A total of 168 competitors in 8 matches across across 5 sports participated the inaugural Games, with teams forming along nth/sth lines to compete for an overall “Pith Helmet”, this year won by the south winning 7 of the 8 contests.
The day started early for the netballers with custom made bamboo rings erected and lines taped out well before the first of two games began at 8.30am between the Saigon Shooters and Hanoi Oi’s. It was the first time these old rivals had played each other in a few years, with the Shooters just too strong for the Oi’s on this occasion. The Shooters winning comfortably 36-8 in the mixed and 32-8 in the Ladies games.
By 10am the football field had well and truly come alive with a very excited sound man heralding the arrival of the Viet Celts and Saigon Gaels Mens Gaelic Football teams with high energy Vietnamese techno broadcast for miles across the district. The Gaels looking splendid in their new black uniforms, announcing their return to the Vietnamese Gaelic fields after a lean 2014.
However, it was the old firm Viet Celts that started the strongest dominating play early before a Gaels comeback that saw tensions rise as the game was placed on the line late in the fourth quarter. The Celts just holding on for a 24-22 win what would be the north’s only win for the day.
In the Ladies Gaelic the Ladies Viet Celts were pumped up before the game, keen to give their star player Claire Sauvage-Mar a good send off in her last game with the Celts. However, it was the Saigon Ladies Gaels that took off from where they left after a successful 2014, defeating the Celts 12-3 in a game played in great spirit. Swans representative Penny Wilmott once again the standout for the Gaels.
Rugby was well represented at the Games, with a 4-team touch tournament competed between two Saigon Gecko’s teams, the Hanoi Dragons and the Japanese rugby team in addition to the Saigon Geckos vs Hanoi Dragons full contact feature Rugby match.
It was all Saigon Gecko’s in the touch with both Gecko’s teams playing off in the Grand Final, Saigon Blue overturning an earlier 3-0 defeat to win 2-1 against their Saigon Reds mates.
It was also a close affair in the Rugby with plenty of sand flying in a hard hitting and gritty game between two of Vietnam’s great sporting rivals. Going into half time 0-0, the second half saw both teams willing themselves on, on what was a very hot and dusty track right up until the final whistle. The Saigon Geckos running in the only try of the game late in the second half to win 5-0.
In the last feature game of the day, the impressive Phil Johns Cup was unvelied for the first time to honour the contributions of Swans former President and hall of fame legend ‘Fabbo’. It had been many years since the Swans had held an internal Hanoi vs Saigon match. While the Hanoi boys laid claim to winning the last contest at the innagural Anzac Day match in 2010, it was the more experienced south that went in confident favorites despite a few key injuries and omissions.
With only a handful of players having played with the Swans previously, including many exciting first game Irish prospects, the northern contigent surprised many by getting the jump on the south early on, winning plenty of ball out of the middle on the back of exciting new Williamstown midfielder Tom Doer.
Small forward BJ Chatham was also impressive in the Hanoi forward line, although inaccurate kicking giving the south a reprieve. An Irish goal from Hanoi’s Neil Hiney also applied pressure to the Saigonners, although to their credit they were able to respond to every challenge and took the lead in the second half behind some great running footy from Mitch Hyde and playing Coach Andy Glendinning.
It was anyone’s game going into the last quarter but it was the south who made better use of their opportunities up forward, Timmy Clements rubbing salt into open wounds by kicking a late sealer to see the south home 44-31.
All teams later retreated to Al Fresco’s Restarurant Da Nang, where host Bob pulled out all stops to provide 160 odd thirsty competitors with a fantastic presentation dinner, where trophies and best on ground medals for each game were presented. Da Nang resident Jason Carter the first recipient of the Gold Best on Ground medal for his super-human efforts in preparing a rarely used dusty soccer pitch in under 3 weeks! All competitors kicking on to enjoy Da Nang’s fantastic hospitality well into the night.
Encouraged by the success of this year’s event, the Swans hope the Central Vietnam Games will live on for many years to come and look forward to inviting all teams back in 2015.
Hanoi Swans 31 – Saigon Swans 44 (Aussie Rules)
Hanoi Oi’s Netball 8 – Saigon Shooters 36 (mixed)
Hanoi Oi’s Netball 8 – Saigon Shooters 32 (women)
Viet Celts 24 – Saigon Gaels 22 (men’s Gaelic)
Viet Celts 3 – Saigon Gaels 12 (women’s Gaelic)
Hanoi Dragons 0 – 5 Saigon Gecko’s (Rugby)
Touch Rugby mini tournament –
Saigon Blue 2 – 1 Hanoi Black
Saigon Red 3 – 3 Japan Orange
Saigon Red 2 – 0 Hanoi Black
Saigon Blue 1 – 1 Japan Orange
Hanoi Black 2 – 1 Japan Orange
Saigon Red 3 – 0 Saigon Blue
Saigon Red 1 – 2 Saigon Blue
Check out all the photos from the Central Vietnam Games
The Vietnam Swans would like to thank the following people for their assistance with the Central Vietnam Games
MJ and Jason – Massive effort well done lads! All the CVG organising committee reps, Bob and Ngan from Al Fresco’s Da Nang, all the team at Vietnam Experience for their help and guidance securing the approvals, Jo Stewart and her team at Swim Vietnam, My Casa Restaurant Da Nang for supplying fantastic food and amazing Mohito’s, Mel Edwards and Waterfront for putting on the band, the Son Tra groundsmen and local workman, the Vietnam Sports and Culture Administration, the People’s Army of Vietnam and most importantly all the participants for coming along!