With its player base spread mostly between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (and a handful of gun players in central Vietnam as well), the Vietnam Swans is now celebrating 10 years of being a national club and their Asian Champs squad will showcase players from all three regions of the country. Hosting the Champs for the first time ever has generated plenty of buzz around sports bars over the last few months, with several recently-departed Swannies rejoining the flock to play on October 15th.
Coming off a relatively successful 2015, early this year the Swans received a wakeup call on two major fronts – losing their ANZAC Friendship Match by a goal to Jakarta, and bowing out in straight sets at the Manila Cup in May. There has been plenty of introspection among the playing group since Manila, but the on-field leadership has regrouped, reset and planned out their road to the 2016 Champs.
The second half of the year has seen the rebirth of the Reds vs Whites intraclub series, solid performances against Cambodia in the home-and-away Cannonball Run series and a more unified performance in Thailand in September. All matches have been focused on a new game plan under the leadership of Tim Burdeu whose new training regime has seen huge improvements from most players in HCMC.
Hosting the Champs in 2016 means that the Swans will be bringing their full arsenal of current members to RMIT, and as a result will be providing teams in both Division 1 and Division 2. While this will undoubtedly cause plenty of headaches for the selectors, they will be buoyed by the fact that the top 2 from the 2015 B&F count will be returning for #champs16 (Tom Doer and Tim Pickert).
Expect big performances on the day from:
- The Milner brothers (Sean #1, Nathan #67) – both have been performing consistently this year, provided we can drag them out on tour. Look out for Sean throwing himself 100% into any contest in the midfield, while Nathan will be able to cherrypick any wayward ball that falls into the backline.
- Vaughan Swart (#88) – The token Canadian has been experimenting with ruckman duties in recent matches, but expect to see him drift back to defuse whichever full forward comes his way.
- Gus McEwin (#17) – “Uncle” credits his ripping performances this year to his yoga sessions, although he claims he’s only going to them because of the attractive instructor. Whatever the inspiration, his efforts in the forward line and along the wings have been massive in 2016.
- Bill Crang (currently #4 but he may lose that jumper in the meantime) – the Swannies captain has been hot and cold this year, but his off-field training regime to prepare for Champs has been impressive so expect him to pour it all out on the unfortunate half-forward that has him for company.
- Crazy Dan and Kerro – The Hanoian duo have been clocking up big hours at the Wolfhound in preparation for a massive Champs with regular air microphone practices to the likes of My Sharona, Its Been Raining and the Priscilla soudtrack, but thanks to debilitating footy injuries they finally get their chance to strut their stuff on the biggest stage of their lives as Official Champs MCs/TimeNazi’s. How they will conduct the boat race with 18 teams will surely test them on this HUUUGE day but if we can keep them off the Platinum beers until at least 3pm Champs should have a very high likelihood of running like clockwork…
A view from above: There is no point glossing over it, the Swannies haven’t been troubling the W column on the AFL Asia ladder for quite some time now. Winless at 2015 Champs, we have to go back to the 2015 Manila Cup to know how good they can be when their midfield is firing. The return of 2015 Swans BnF Tommy Doer and Swannies legend Mitch Hyde, both who featured strongly in that Manila Cup win, will go a long way in seeing them recapturing some of that winning formula on home soil. A massive assault on the second division will also be likely with their large home squad, many of their new local development players and returning legends likely to feature strongly. With plenty of home town support expected, the Swannies will be flying high at Champs.