Netballers Do 'Nam;
Inaugural International Tour:
November 19 2007
Looking striking in our team polo’s, the Tigers netballers were the talk of the terminal on Friday afternoon as we gathered for a pre-flight beverage at the sports bar 3kms from our gate. It was during the long walk back to the gate that we learned the fate of the footy coach Fish, who through some sort of incomprehensible cock-up found himself visa-less and unable to check in. So Fish’s Last Tour was off to a great start.
Everyone was a bit nervous as to how the mixed football/netball tour party would get along, and tensions came to a head early on when the beer ran out during the flight. The girls had strategically positioned themselves at the back of the plane to pounce on unsuspecting hosties with trolleys of beer, and even though we explained to one of the lads that we’d only got one beer each, the reply was, “Yes, well it could’ve been 5…6…7…8 more beers for us!” However, the netballers soon had the lads mesmerized with their ability to take a jelly-snake in their mouths and knot it with their tongues, and no more complaints were heard.
We finally got to the pre-game function and met up with the Laos & Hanoi teams, who were very friendly and welcoming. The Tigers got down to business by bonding with some drinking games, but despite Marta’s protests managed to keep a lid on it. Certain girls were devastated at the arrival of a party of guys just as we were leaving. The owner of the bar said he’d called them down just for us, and there were calls of “Lets go back!” but the determined team would not be swayed.
Arriving at the ground Saturday morning we had about 10 minutes to warm up and get sorted before we started playing. We mixed out two teams for the tournament, so there was no A and B team, but became Tigers Claws (captained by Liv) and Tigers Roars (captained by Joey). Roars were devastated to learn that 3 of their 4 games would be played in the sun on a hot day, and that they wouldn’t get a by until the last match. Claws sympathised, but secretly congratulated themselves on their good fortune of having one more game under cover.
While the Roars sweated out to lose their first game to Laos in the sun, the Claws had a hard fought victory against Hanoi Red in the shade. Being one player down, they were also the beneficiaries of a substitute from Hanoi Black, in the form of Rebecca, who used to play netball for Australia. Needing a sub turned out to be a winning strategy for the Claws, because only the best players were fit enough to play an extra game. Game two saw the Claws watch as the Roars succumbed to defeat at the hands of Hanoi Black, while Game three saw a refreshed Claws ready to face the Hanoi Black. When Robson walked out at the start of the match, having just played the second Hanoi team as a sub for the injured Kath (she jarred another finger, but fortunately a Medivac chopper was on standby), one of the players who had clearly been on the receiving end of Robson’s talent, greeted her with, “Oh no, not you again”. Another close match but the Claws walked away with the points, smugly noting to the Roars, who had just lost to the other Hanoi team in the shade, “it doesn’t seem so hot out there now”.
So here is the picture: Roars were fuming about their bad draw and string of defeats, while the Claws were relatively fresh, completely smug and leading the competition tied with Laos.
Next game: Roars vs. Claws. The Claws got away to an early lead but this time with no substitute the Roars caught up then matched them goal for goal. Even though the competition was on the line and a win would have seen the Claws seal the day, the Roars, who were fighting for dignity, would not go down. The match ended in a draw, with the Claws needing to win or draw with Laos in the final match to take the day.
The final match got under way with two Roars girls volunteering to umpire, dismissing the raised eyebrows of the Laos team. Both teams came out fighting with the scores evenly matched. Liz rolled an ankle during the first half, but returned at the start of the second half only to cop a ball in the face one minute later. Exiting the court hastily she accepted Kath’s proffered icepack and proceeded to use it as a hanky, while Chelsey hurried back onto the court to substitute. With scant seconds remaining on the clock and the Claws down by one point but with possession of the ball, Liv hurled a shot to Joey who was standing right underneath the Tigers’ goal. In a country steeped in the history of war, Joey was impelled to ‘duck and cover’ rather than catch the ball. The ball bounced off her and out of play, the whistle blew, the game was over, and Laos won the comp.
Final score: Laos 16 def. Tigers Claws 15
The netballers enjoyed the rest of the afternoon watching the boys play footy and drinking beer, only pausing every now and then to shake their heads and reflect at what might have been. Those who were there will never forget turning around to see Fish stroll up to the ground in time to coach and win the last match of the day, a true Hanoi miracle.
Highlights of the evening’s function included Fish being thrown in the pool to commemorate his last tour, to chastise him for nearly not making it, and to celebrate him getting there after all (a pool dunking succinctly covers all three). Undoubtedly the biggest revelation of the night was Vron’s participation in the time-honoured boat race. She accounted for herself well, and the Tigers won that one too. Tigers Claws won ‘best team spirit’ were presented with traditional Vietnamese hats. We all partied into the night, variously indulging in beer, eating noodles, playing pool (watch out for Liv the shark) and surviving police raids at Hanoi’s coolest club The Lighthouse.
“Welcome to the footy team, you're not a netballer anymore.” Patto to Vron after her follow-up performance on Sunday when she drank all day, played cricket, earned the nickname V-Ron, was declared an all-rounder and then partook in the ancient rite of the ‘frommell’.
“I just thought I’d surprise you.” Unnamed footballer to a netballer upon being asked just what exactly he was doing climbing into bed with her.
As for the details, what happens in Hanoi stays in Hanoi.
Tour reporter: Liz Player