Vietnam -Thai - Laos Tri-Nations
Tiger Take All Before Them In Asian Tri-Nations;
Fish Left Swimming As He Stuffs Up His Visa:
19 November 2007
What a sensational weekend! Vietnam vs Thailand vs Laos. The first ever Tri-Nations AFL / Netball weekend was a HUGE success and most importantly, the Tigers walked away victorious, giving Fish the perfect send-off.
A huge touring party departed Bangkok on Friday, headed for Hanoi – the City of Horns. Some people were able to get away early on Friday, but most gathered at the Sports Bar and Bistro (turn right!!) for the 6pm and 6.30pm flights, with Fish’s words of wisdom still fresh in the memory... “Make sure you get all your passports and visas organised. We don’t want any last minute stuff-ups”.
Wise words indeed, so it was a fairly massive surprise to be informed as we headed towards the gate, that the coach himself wasn’t being let into Vietnam because.. he forgot to organise his bloody visa!! As we informed the various playing group around us about the plight of Fish, there were mixed reactions, from stunned silence, to mild amusement, but perhaps the most animated response was from netballing star Kerry Robson who looked down at the 60 polo shirts she was lugging onboard, featuring ‘Fish’s Last Tour’ emblazoned on them, and said “Well what the fuck are we going to do with these?!”
Regardless, the show must go on, and with Fish exhausting all options with the airlines, we took off with the intention of bringing the ‘Bourke/Roos Cup’ back home. Once we checked in, it was off to the pre-game function where we met up with the rest of the touring party who were already indulging in some of the official sponsors drop, the under-rated Tiger Beer. Needless to say a Friday night with all your friends in a foreign country deserves some social lubricant. Some of the boys and girls looked after themselves and were tucked away nice and early, and some of the boys and girls made the most of the occasion and treated themselves to a more superfluous evening.
The next day, everyone on tour was woken to loud and unbelievably frequent tooting of horns around 6.30am’ish. If you managed to get back to sleep you were doing well, otherwise you had to kill time until breakfast. We were also greeted with another message from Fish, basically informing us that although every avenue had been tried, basically he was buggered and not going to make his farewell tour. This devastating news was shared around the breakfast tables, and although everyone was disappointed for Fish, Dog got everyone back on track with his comments “What an idiot! Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s going to have to pay for this one”.
After pulling into the magnificent grounds of the United Nations International School, the girls got ready for their netball and pretty much straight into action. I’m sorry I’m unable to report on this part of the tour, as I just have no knowledge of the game. Seemed to be a lot of whistle blowing, but our two teams appeared to be competitive in all their matches, and also looked shit-loads better in their uniforms than the opposition did.
While we warmed up with a bit of basketball, Dog had taken on coaching duties, and worked out a pretty formidable line-up to take on our first game opponents, the Laos Elephants. A brief team plan was put to the group by the new coach, Mango was anointed vice captain (with Tom Chapman unable to play due to injury), some warm-up running and unrealistic stretching positions propositioned by Kerry, a couple of minutes kicking the footys, I swore a little bit, and we were underway!
Not the best start after our massive build-up as Laos drew first blood registering a goal in the opening couple of minutes. But as the ball was being returned to the umpires, our coaching panel realised we were two players less than the opposition. Whoops.. 16 a side, not 14! A decision reached by Vietnam and Laos which they conveniently forgot to pass onto us. Swines!
After that however it was all one-way traffic. The boys from Thailand were unstoppable! Jesus was winning every tap and putting it down the throats of Mango, Kerry and Thwaiter, who would dance through the middle and find one of our forwards, most usually Rhino! When the footy did go into our back line, Bruce, Rowdy, Tiger or Wazza would clear it back to our advantage pretty quickly. However the highlight was the skilful delivery to each other. Rarely was an opportunity squandered going forward and the forwards finished off superbly!
With a 6-goal lead, the second half gave Dog a chance to rotate some players off the bench, and give some of the others a chance to rest-up for the next game. Rowdy went into the ruck and continued to give our midfield first opportunity. But it was Saul who was racking up the possessions. The hard man of Asian football showed his opponents who wanted the ball more, and his unselfish use of handball to bring his team-mates into the game was a great example of team football.
Thailand Tigers 9 . 5 . 59
Laos Elephants 4 . 4 . 28
With only a 20-minute break between our win over Laos and the final match against home side the Vietnam Swans, the boys needed a pick-me-up. Vietnam had the luxury of a longer break and plenty of numbers, and we needed something to get us going again. As the loud-speaker rotated tracks to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ a whispering storm grew larger and more vocal, drawing attention to an excited commotion coming from the main gates.. Could it be? It looks like him from a distance. Yes!! The Big Fish was bounding across the netball courts double time, throwing high-fives to the crowd that was gathering around him.. He never broke stride once, threw down his bag, and said “Right, I made it.. Give us a look at the team!”
Turns out part-time Hanoi resident, and major Thaigers sponsor – Ian Pascoe, had heard of the coach’s plight, and through his vast network of shady politicians and underground connections, Paz managed to get Fish on the lunchtime flight and into Hanoi in time for game two!
This provided the spark needed to get the boys off their weary arses and into a huddle ready for the decider. With some motivating words from the coach, plus Dog now able to take to the ground, there were no slow starts this time. The Tigers were ferocious in their attack and continued to play a brand of inspired team football not seen in many years. We kicked the first 8 goals of this half and kept them goalless in a flawless display! Every player on the ground did his part and beat his opponent. Hendo showed the way early on when he put his body on the line to back into a pack and take what he knew was coming. A courageous example that lifted his team-mates!
Jesus was back combining beautifully with his midfield again. Consisting of Mango, Thwaiter, Kerry, Yoda and Saul, they continually shared the footy around, eventually finding one of the forwards directly in front of goal, or finishing off through the big sticks themselves. Hollywood and Stewie lead a miserly backline that refused to concede an inch, and with Brendan Mayne’s accurate passing out of defence, we never looked threatened.
The Swans put on a couple of goals towards the end of the game, but the game had long been taken from them.
Thailand Tigers 13 . 3 . 81
Vietnam Swans 3 . 3 . 21
The jubilation was evident on everyone’s face as the song was belted out with gusto. The celebrations continued into the after-match function where it was decided Fish needed to atone for his sins in not making the flight. The boys lured him into a cunning trap whereby he was eventually dumped into the swimming pool adjoining the function room. No protest, took it like a champ, and bought the boys another round! What a night!
The Vietnam Swans and their netball team put on an amazing tournament and were magnificent hosts throughout. Many thanks must go to them for a terrific weekend.
Ralphy, you organized a faultless trip. We are all very grateful!
Liv Thwaiter, the shirts look terrific and are a great memento to remind us of ‘Fish’s last Tour’ that almost never was.
Seksan must also be thanked for his organization of buses from the airport, and the awards he provided. Thanks mate!
Finally to the players, you should all be very proud of your efforts on the weekend. This is now the standard we have to set ourselves for every international match. It is an honour to captain such a great bunch of blokes when we play like that. See you all at the Presentation night.
My best players in no particular order as it was too hard to split them:
MANGO: Earned the vice-captaincy with his work over the past two months, and stepped up again. Must have had close to 40 possessions over the day. Awesome work-rate.
SAUL: Continually won the hard footy for us. A stack of possession also and shared it around with his mates.
JESUS: Played his best ever game in both domestic and Internationals. Ruck work was amazing and continually ran hard over a fairly large ground to provide options. BOG in the nightlife awards also. (And you made both your flights!)
RHINO: 8 goals say it all. 6 in the first game to set us alight. Had your opponents bamboozled.
KERRY: His kicking skills have improved dramatically and it was terrific to see him win his usual high quantity of possession, and now being able to deliver accurately to one of his team-mates.