The second annual Central Vietnam Games took place on Saturday 5th March, 2016, and was another fantastic day of sports, fundraising, banter and healthy north-versus-south rivalry. 145 players from Hanoi and Saigon descended on Danang, and we were also delighted to welcome our first Danang team to the tournament – the Phat Murphy’s touch rugby team.
The grounds looked fantastic with impressively green grass, minimal potholes, brand new multipurpose goal posts and some great shade covering for the grandstands. The hard work of Jason Carter and Michael Johnson – as well as Grant Keys’ additional manpower on the Friday – had clearly paid off, with the Danang Duo outdoing themselves in getting the grounds prepared and logistics sorted.
The day got started with a double fixture of touch rugby pool games and mixed basketball – a new edition to the Games, played at the indoor court in the school over the road. Touch rugby saw four teams compete, with the pool games progressing the Saigon Geckos and Hanoi Dragons in to the final (to be played later in the day), and the Hanoi Japanese team and Phat Murphy’s heading to the consolation final. Meanwhile in the basketball, the Saigon team struggled to keep up with Australian 8 foot giant and ex-pro baller Grant Keys and his impressive team, with Hanoi taking the first win of the day, 41 to 27.
The next double bill belonged to part one of the Hanoi Dragons vs Saigon Geckos rugby union match, and the Hanoi Ois vs Saigon Shooters women’s netball. The Geckos showed a strong domination over the Dragons, taking out the game 26-0 before losing a player to a nasty injury in the dying seconds. Over in the netball arena, the Saigon team got to a quick lead which held they held throughout the game, winning 29-9, although the game felt much closer.
On the main field, the rugby was followed by the Viet Celts vs Saigon Gaels men’s Gaelic football match. Both teams had strong numbers, with many Swannies pulling on a jersey to help out. The Southerners also offered up new Swannies recruit Scott Walsh to the North, which they regretted about one minute in to the match. Hanoi once again showed their dominance with the round ball, and despite some strong shows from the Southern boys in the second half, had a comfortable win of 24 to 9.
Next up was the touch rugby finals, with the Geckos and Dragons competing for the cup, while the Hanoi Japanese and Phat Murphy’s teams played off for the consolation final. The Geckos showed their running and dodging power over the Dragons, winning the final 3-1, while the Japanese team outplayed the newbies from Phat Murphy’s, taking the consolation final, also at 3-1.
After an action packed morning, players were given some rest to enjoy lunch and stock up on fluids from the Swim Vietnam drinks station. The tally stood at 2 wins each for the North and the South, with part two of the rugby union, mixed netball, women’s Gaelic and AFL still to come. Lunch time was also used as an opportunity for the kids from Association Xuan to have a run around and try out some of the sports with support from the players. The kids (and adults!) had a great time, and big thanks go to Yoko for organizing and coordinating this initiative.
After a quick lunch, the netballers headed back to the arena for the Ois vs Shooters mixed game. Both teams played a hard, fast game, but with the Shooters’ men having a bit more experience under their belt than their northern counterparts, the South took the game 30-9. At the conclusion of the game, many of the girls rushed back to the field and swapped runners for football boots, ready for the Viet Celts vs Saigon Gaels women’s match.
The Celts came out strongly, scoring some quick overs and goals in the first half while the Gaels trialled different positions in an attempt to shut down some of the Northern ball-movers. The Celts took a 6 point lead in to the final term, but in an act of defiance, the Southerners kept pushing forward to level the score by the end of the match. Both teams decided on 5 minutes of overtime to see if a winner could be decided, but in keeping with the tightness of the match thus far, scores remained even at the end of extra time, and the game was declared a draw.
The rugby union boys took a break from torturing their new recruits to play part two of what they had started earlier. The Saigon Geckos came in to this game with a strong 26-0 lead and managed to double it, rounding the total score for both games to 52-0. It wasn’t long before the new recruits were back in their frilled swimsuits and dancing off for the amusement of their tormentors.
The final game of the mammoth day was the Vietnam Swans intra-club North vs South match. While the Swans are a national and strongly united team in the AFL Asia circuit, there is certainly enough rivalry between the ‘namispheres to make for a wildly competitive and entertaining match. Gaelic players from both ends returned the favour by pulling on Swannies jumpers, while Central boys MJ and Jase Carter made their allegiances known, pulling on red shirts for the north (technically, Danang is 79km closer to Hanoi). The Southern Whites dominated the play in the first half, but their poor kicking accuracy – along with some tidy goals from the Northerners – made it a one point game at half time. Coaches Joe Vile (North) and Dave Tholstrup (South) made some strategic changes and inspirational speeches ahead of a big second half. The Reds brought some strong defensive pressure and midfield power to the second half of the game, but the Whites were able to hold their own and find the big sticks, eventually taking home the game 54 to 31.
With that, the Games were over, and the final tally stood at 5 wins to the South, 2 wins to the North, and 1 draw. All games were played in fantastic spirit, with players across the sports relishing the opportunity with play with (and against) their counterparts from the opposite end of the country. The party kicked off at Al Fresco’s, with the team there putting on a great spread of food, beers and punch. Awards were given for each sport (best player for each team, as chosen by the opposing team), as well as overall “player(s) of the tournament”, and of course – the awarding of the coveted Pith Helmet to the South. Congratulations to all award winners, with details below.
Basketball: North 41 def South 27
Best Players – Grant Keys (N) and Matty Rose (S)
Women’s netball: Saigon Shooters 29 def Hanoi Oi’s 9
Best Players – Laura Gallagher (S) and Clare Albertson (N)
Mixed netball: Saigon Shooters 30 def Hanoi Oi’s 9
Best Players – Bart Schneeman (S) and Sam Wilcox (N)
Touch Rugby final: Saigon Geckos 3 def Hanoi Dragons 1
Best Players – Lindsay Nutley (S) and Sam Wilcox (N)
Touch Rugby consolation final: Hanoi Japanese 3 def Phat Murphy’s 1
Best Players – Kenta Hatakenaka (N) and Alan Murphy (C)
Rugby Union: Saigon Geckos def Hanoi Dragons 52 – 0
Best Players – Michael Patching (S) and John Harass (N)
Men’s Gaelic: Viet Celts 24 def Saigon Gaels 9
Best Players – Mark Horkan (N) and Sean Campbell (S)
Womens Gaelic: Viet Celts Ladies 10 drew with Saigon Ladies Gaels 10 (Viet Celts retain Trophy)
Best Players – Aishling McDermott (N) and Stephanie Webb (S)
AFL Phil Johns Cup: Saigon Swans 54 def Hanoi Swans 31
Best Players – Scott Walsh (S) and Alex Maskiell (N)
Players of the Tournament: Michael Johnston and Jason Carter
Honorary Mention: Nguyen Quang Vinh who played in an impressive four sports – touch rugby, contact rugby, men’s Gaelic football and AFL.
Overall Pith Helmet: South 5 defeated North 2 (1 draw)
First and foremost, the Central Vietnam Games is about bringing players together from the north and south for a fun weekend of sports. However, it is also a great opportunity to highlight some fantastic charities, and give back to the community. All registration profits go to Swim Vietnam, a charity that works to train swimming teachers in Central Vietnam to prevent drowning – the leading cause of injury related death amongst children in the country. Swim Vietnam also manned a drink stall at the grounds, selling cold drinks to the thirsty revellers. In addition, the kids from Association Xuan – Family 4 worked hard selling raffle tickets, while also taking in all of the action from the day. In total, Swim Vietnam received 27,250,000 from the day (22,250,000 VND from registrations and 4,000,000 VND from drink sales), while Association Xuan made an impressive 20,000,000 VND from their raffle. We are delighted to be able to support these local charities, and next year we hope to welcome some Swim Vietnam teams to the competition!
A weekend like the Central Vietnam Games takes a huge amount of preparation and organization, with extensive ground work and community liaison required, as well as communicating with all teams and arranging on-the-day logistics. For the second year in a row, Jason Carter and Michael Johnson have been outstanding, and with the help of Grant Keys and Chris Salmon, have pulled off another hugely successful tournament. While last year was an initial “test” of the viability of the Central Vietnam Games, this year is proof of the overwhelming popularity of the event, and it is fair to say the Games are here to stay!
More photos are available below, with big thanks to our unofficial photographer Juliet Schneeman!
Women’s netball – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10153962367322370&type=1