Vietnam Swans 13.21 (99) def. Cambodia Cobras 1.9 (15)
Best on ground: Brett Jota (Vietnam)
IF political history is anything to go by, then an Aussie Rules footy match between Cambodia and Vietnam should serve up a regional equivalent to the bitter rivalry fought out biannually between Carlton and Collingwood down-under. Though the result of Saturday’s match at Northbridge International School was as unequal as the curtain raiser played in Melbourne between those two famous foes, there was no equivalent hostility between the Cobras and the Swans, who served up an entertaining and well-spirited contest.
The revamped Cambodian Cobras were partaking in their first outing and from the beginning it was clear that, though their intent was genuine, their foot skills were not. Vietnam booted four goals in the first term, thanks largely to their midfield dominance spurned by the handy ruck work of Mark Greensheilds, hard running from midfielder Luke Creamer and relentless pressure of small forward Brett Jota. Cambodia failed to hit the board with a major.
In the second term, the Cobras lifted through the middle, with rover and team captain David Murphy upping his work rate and their “ring-in” centre half forward from Singapore, known only as “Rooster,” starting to assert himself in the packs.
However, tough work in the clinches was wasted through wayward kicking, and despite Cambodia controlling the majority of the possession, Vietnam needed just the slightest opportunity to pounce. The blistering run and carry of Cambodian full-back Chhaya Hang staved off many a forward attack by Vietnam but as the lone hand down back, even his usually raking drop-punt clearances succumbed to the pressure, resulting in some costly turnovers in front of goal.
At half time, midfielder/utility Conor Wall’s exhaustion reflected the Cobra’s lack of match fitness and when quizzed about whether the team suffered from inaccurate disposal, he replied: “only on the toilet.”
If that is truly his yardstick, then I’d stay well clear of his bathroom, indeed his entire house. David Boyle, an official from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, pointed out that the team had come a long way since being forced to recruit spectators into their under-manned team during a game two years ago.
“People like me standing on the sidelines ended up playing, but today they’re definitely going to go all the way,” he said.
With the resumption of “hostilities” in the third term, the Swans came out looking hungry to quash the Cobras’ resurgence, applying pressure through their superior fitness. Swans forward Brett Jota showed great volition when he smothered and intercepted early in the premiership quarter, and was rewarded for his efforts soon after, snagging a goal in the right forward pocket.
Some joy finally came for the Cobras in the fourth quarter, when forward Rory Hunter drilled home their first. After the game, Cobras captain David Murphy was philosophical about the 84-point-loss.
“It’s not the result we were looking for, but three or four months ago, not having a club and then being able to get 28 players on the track today was a huge achievement,” he said.
“We kicked one goal, we kicked many points but we were very competitive and we came up against a side that really know what they’re doing.”
The match practice should help the Cobras work more fluency and structure into their game when they tackle the Swans on home turf in Vietnam in three weeks’ time. On Saturday’s performance, they should consider putting Chhaya Hang in the middle and letting him run wherever he wants.