A regal looking Matty Townsend, together with the Australian Ambassador, Hugh Borrowman, inspects the troops prior to the match between the Vietnam Whites and Thailand/Lao – and his match report below. Photo, Asha Phillips.

Matty Townsend, MC and Fines Master extraordinaire now turns his hand to sporting commentary and in depth analysis; specifically, Game 3 of the 2012 Indochina Cup played between the Vietnam Swans Whites (“B”) team and the combined Thailand/Lao team.

The Whites, up and about after the gentle reassurance of Supercoach MJ, gave the game against the ThaiLaos Tigerphants a real White-Hot Go. While clear-eyed judges would suggest the final score accurately conveyed a slight gap in class between the two teams, Supercoach MJ set out two Key Performance Metrics for the team – Trust and Try – and the Whites delivered on this progressive approach handsomely.

Planning meticulously for the contest, Supercoach MJ knew from the outset that no-one was suddenly going to become as good a kick as SOS, or as fast as Jotta, or as handsome as Ado, but that if the team could play with strength and dedication, they’d be able to walk off with heads held high (or as high as their ageing, aching backs would let them). Playing the hand he’d been dealt, Superoach MJ pulled off a masterstroke, as the Whites smashed in from all directions.

As loathe as I am to highlight individual performances in a game where the will of the team really showed out, I am compelled to draw attention to a couple of ageing warriors. Dan Lucardie, a Lion In Winter roaring against the fading of the light, protected his charges with feline judgement and grace. Trav Fennell’s hands were as supple as his vision was clear. And the Supercoach himself, sensing that he was needed, threw himself into the middle with a callous disregard for his own well-being.

But what of the others?

What of the newcomers like Nick and Luca and Alex, learning the patterns on the fly and charging through the packs with abandon? What of the more seasoned “foreigners” like Harry and Kurt, marinated in those brutal southern Reds v Whites games and bringing their determination to the national stage? What of skilled stalwarts like John Macca and Stenno, reading the play and keeping us competitive, or of Sealy, who looked like he was a son born of the game, not an orphan from another code? What of the poor, underworked forwards like Fabbo and Timmay, making the most of the little ball we sent their way? What of the cracking young ringers Mick, Chris and Jack, giving us youthful legs and the cloak of dignity on the scoreboard?

And – crucially – what of Mr Powell, an extraordinary figure embodying everything the Supercoach had asked of us – to trust his teammates and to try, try, try? Note well: I can’t ruck for a quarter of a game. Mr Powell rucked all day – and he is twice my age. Think about that for a full ten seconds.

Whether they were as young as Zach or as old as the Flyer, I am proud to say that from my armchair at full back (where I didn’t have to work as hard as the others, because the ball kept being kicked long and straight over my head), the entire team ran ‘til they couldn’t. Our team had Trent and Andy running the show, and they provided the springboard from which these ungainly cygnets grew into proud, beautiful (if occasionally ungainly) Vietnam Swans.

PS – shout out to Donny, who is Irish but lovely.