The 2015/2016 Saigon Al Fresco’s AFL 9’s series has just wrapped up, and what a competition it was! The series began on 28th November, and ran over 4 weekends, concluding with a fierce finals day on 23rd January. Four teams competed this year, and in a nod to some of our brilliant sponsors, were aptly named:
- The Commbank Yellows
- The CVP Reds
- The Dragon Industry Blues; and
- The Wide Eyed Tours Greens
With a very even mix of men and women from the Swans, the Saigon Gaels, and plenty of newcomers, our captains Chris Salmon (Commbank), Dan Morrison (CVP), Tim Clements (Dragon) and Tim Burdeu (Wide Eyed Tours) gathered their troops, formulated game plans, and took part in some hot behind-the-scenes sledging that would have made Wayne Carey proud.
The format of the competition meant that each team played 2 games per week. In the first two rounds, Wide Eyed Tours and Dragon emerged as front-runners, notching up 4 and 3 wins respectively, while CVP scored their first win against Commbank in round two. However, things got very interesting in round three, with each team getting a win, and suddenly making finals predictions a tad harder.
On finals day, each team again played two games, with all teams going in with a chance to play in the Grand
Final. First up was WET (1) against Commbank (4). Both teams came out firing and some early minor scores made it anyone’s game. Chris, Lucas, Tiffany and Julie (Commbank) were giving their opponents a good work out, while gone-but-never-forgotten Swannie Kev Hornblower stole play of the day with a brilliant one-handed mark on the opposition goal line. However, some midfield magic from Andy G and Timmy B set up Gus and Maz for some quick goals, putting WET in to a lead that would hold out the game, winning 36 to 23.
Next up, Dragon (2) and CVP (3) lined up for their chance to take on WET in the final. Dragon came out strong, taking the first half 8 to 1, with the ruthless midfield combo of Timmy C and Heather Turkle again proving a hard act to match. However, superb defensive efforts from Dan Morrison, Johnny “No Show” McLoughlin and Cormac Hamill lead to an an early goal from Tors Rosenthal (9 points) in the second to put CVP in front. Timmy C responded quickly with another goal putting the Blues ahead again, before a brilliant final-minute goal from Alyson Hamilton sealed the game for CVP (21 to 16), advancing the third-placers to the final.
Commbank and Dragon faced off in the runner’s up final, with both captains sporting some serious game-face. Commbank fought hard for an against-the-odds win, while Dragon were showing no mercy after their loss to CVP. Dragon started the game with some quick goals, going in to the half time break 27 – 1. Commbank started the second half with two great goals from ex-Gaels-hero Siobhan Synott, narrowing the margin to an achievable one goal. However, after this wake up call, Dragon stacked on the goals with Heather, Jo, Laura and Tim C kicking majors from wherever they pleased. In the end, it was a dominant performance from Dragon that sealed the third spot, 53 to 19.
The last game of the day was the big one – WET against CVP for the top spot. The defensive pressure was tight, and both teams made strong pushes forward. WET notched the first score with a goal from the big-man Ross McRae, before CVP stole the lead with a goal from Tors (9 points). A brilliant midfield entry from Andy G (WET) set up Maz for another 9-pointer to give the Greens the lead going in to half time. However, the CVP Reds stepped up their ball movement in the second half, with Dan, Bill, Tors and Johnny applying ruthless pressure across the field (and the occasional knee to opponents’ heads). Three second-half goals to WET’s one sealed the win for the Reds – a remarkable effort for a team that only had two wins going in to the day.
At the conclusion of game, the captains voted on four players as stand-outs during the tournament:
Runner Up Male – Cormac Hamill (CVP)
Runner Up Female – Julie O’Meara (Commbank)
Best Male – Vinh Nguyen (WET)
Best Female – Heather Turkle (Dragon)
Honourable mentions also go to Johnny McLoughlin, Tors Rosenthal, Tiffany Trood, Stephanie Webb, Sonny Le, Lucy Glynn, Laura Gallagher and Lucas Walker – all relatively new to the sport yet playing crucial roles in their teams.
A big thank you goes to all captains and those who volunteered to umpire the games, including Timmy B, Timmy C, Dan, Nath Milner, Chris, Andy G and Bill (as terrible as he was). Also, a massive thanks to Ross McRae for designing our awesome kits!
Mixed AFL in Saigon continues to go from strength to strength through the annual 9’s tournament, as well as stand-alone social games throughout the year. The quality of football on display by the finals was remarkable, with all players showing great improvement throughout the tournament. The series has proved to be a handy recruitment drive for both the Swans and the Gaels, but most importantly it has cemented the strong relationship between the clubs.
We’re looking forward to next season already!
Full photo album (thanks to Ross McRae) available here.