Words Billy Crang – Photos Kai Photography
After claiming the inaugural AFLW Asian Championships in 2018 the Vietnam Swans Men have claimed their first ever Asian Championships trophy in a dominant display over favorites and hosts the Thailand Tigers.
Division 2 carried plenty of intrigue at the tournament’s outset, how would the youth, pace and fitness of the Japan Warriors stack up against some of the expat teams? How strong would the China Reds touring squad be after impressive showings in Shanghai earlier this year? Did Indonesia, having chosen to play their seconds squad in Div 2 not Div 3 have some of their Division 1 quality from last year in the squad to pose a threat? And how would the Indochina frienemies of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam fare given Vietnam currently hold the Indochina Cup, Thailand just beat Cambodia home and away, Vietnam beat Cambodia on the road but were rolled at home just weeks before this tournament. With the dew kicking early start to the day we were all set to find out soon enough!
Australian Finance Advocates Division 2 Results
Round 1 Games
As mentioned Round 1 carried plenty of intrigue and a lot of it centred on Ground 1 nearest most of the team tents. Thailand had come to favoritism having won it’s 3 2019 games including a road win in Cambodia just a few months ago. The squad at home were full strength, settled and boasting plenty of weapons that looked likely to earn them a home champs win. That was until the Swans midfield hit them, outright ferocity at the coalface from the outset saw the Swans control the footy into the strong wind in the first quarter then breeze (pun intended) past the hosts in the second half. Division 2 had been put on notice, the Swans quietly moved into the 1 seed.
Across on field 2 and 3 we learnt that, as always, the Cambodian Eagles were going to push anyone they came up against. Their mix of solid expat skills and Khmer attack/skills at the footy was way too much for the China Reds. Meanwhile the Japan Warriors looked every bit the fast and skillful squad that had been predicted in comfortably accounting for the Indonesian Volcanoes.
Vietnam Swans 3.3 (21) vs Thailand Tigers 1.1 (7)
Cambodia Eagles 4.5 (29) vs China Reds 0.2 (2)
Japan Warriors 4.3 (27) vs Indonesian Volcanoes 2.1 (13)
Round 2 Games
Round 2 posed a few more questions and they were answered bluntly. Thailand literally blew Cambodia out of the tournament meaning they re-established themselves as a credible chance for the title. Vietnam left no-one uncertain of their intentions keeping a clean sheet against the Indonesians whilst the Japan Warriors remained undefeated against the Reds setting up a qualifying final with the Swans in Round 3.
Thailand Tigers 7.3 (45) vs Cambodia Eagles 0.0 (0)
Vietnam Swans 5.2 (32) vs Indonesian Volcanoes 0.0 (0)
Japan Warriors 7.3 (45) vs China Reds 1.0 (6)
Round 3 Games
Round 3 the spotlight followed the Swans to field 2 as they took on another challenge in the undefeated Japan Warriors. With Thailand’s demolition of the Eagles in Round 2 the loser of this game was going to struggle on percentage despite having ⅔ wins. Japan did show glimpses of outpacing the Swans but once again the Swans midfield attack on the footy kept them in control throughout. Unfortunately one of Division 2’s most exciting teams in the Warriors were eliminated on percentage. No doubt these boys will be better for the experience and threaten for a Div 2 title in 2020! Meanwhile on field 3 Cambodia restored some pride but with some wayward goalkicking and that horrible round 2 result couldn’t get themselves into the percentage game for the final.
Thailand Tigers 7.6 (48) vs China Reds 0.1 (1)
Vietnam Swans 5.4 (34) vs Japan Warriors 1.1 (7)
Cambodia Eagles 2.5 (17) vs Indonesian Volcanoes 1.1 (7)
Australian Finance Advocates Division 2 Standings (3 Rounds)
After the 3 rounds we were at the same place we were at 9am. A little shell shocked that the Swans had come out and dominated the footy so strongly against the Tigers and just wondering if they were going to be able to maintain that sort of level for one last game. The 3rd/4th playoff was also a fitting contest given both teams sat equal second on points but hadn’t had dominant enough wins when they got on top and had given up too much in their losses. Indonesia and China had one last hit-out to get a win for the day and restore some pride. Oh, and did someone say ring in? One of Melbourne’s most notorious pub and tattoo parlor owners, gofundme celebrities and occasional AFL premiership, Brownlow medal and Copeland Medal winner seemed to be warming* up in the Volcanoes squad!
Australian Finance Advocates Division 2 Finals
And so the 3 division 3 finals took to the field with field 1 hosting the big one. Could Vietnam stay so hot in the coalface and upset the hosts or would the Tigers right the wrong of the early morning game? As it turned out the Tigers went with the strong wind in the first half but the teams ended up tied going into the half time break. With rain threatening but a strong wind at their back and the run of play the Swans looked likely but had no right to be complacent. There was no complacency as the rain held off and the Swans put 3 goals to nil on to close out a great effort and their first ever Asian Champs victory. The work of their on-ball and ruck brigade can’t be underestimated. The forwards were allowed to look like rockstars (and they obliged happily) and the defenders pretty much enjoyed the spectacle all day. Seemingly the Swannies now face the task of preparing for Div 1 in 2020 and they had the afternoon to watch their upcoming competitors go toe to toe.
In the 3rd place game the Eagles recovered their form and accounted for the Warriors.
To find out about the 5th place game you’ll have to tune into the latest episode of the “Swanny & Friends Hump Day” podcast to hear what happened but it was an entertaining affair to say the least and the Reds seemingly finally found their mojo!
Vietnam Swans 4.2 (26) vs Thailand Tigers 1.1 (7)
3rd vs. 4th
Cambodia Eagles 5.6 (36) vs Japan Warriors 3.3 (21)
5th vs. 6th
China Reds 9.4 (58) vs Indonesian Volcanoes 3.0 (18)
Australian Finance Advocates Division 2 Final Standings
Vietnam Swans Australian Finance Advocates Division 2 Champions
Thailand Tigers Runners-Up
Cambodian Eagles 3rd Place
Japan Warriors 4th Place
China Reds 5th Place
Indonesian Volcanoes 6th Place