Commemorating the anniversary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux that took place during WW1, the men’s and women’s Australian ‘Spirit’ sides go head-to-head with the French national teams to contest the ANZAC Cup. The match honours those Australian’s who fought to reclaim the town from German occupancy on the night of April 24th, 1918, in a victory that was described as the turning point in the war by Sir John Monash.
Villers-Bretonneux had been a key post for the Allies prior to the Germans successfully breaking through defensive lines and taking the town on the 24th as part of their Spring Offensive. This was a considerable victory given the towns vantage point over the city of Amiens which was of significant tactical importance to both sides.
As such, the Australian lead counter-attack was an imperative move to be made and was quickly ordered to commence on the night of the 24th, with the 13th, 14th & 15th brigades waiting for the cover of darkness before launching their response at 10pm local time. Their efforts were successful and the town was handed back to the villagers on April 25th – exactly three years after the landing at Gallipoli – but tragically not before 2,473 Australian lives were lost.
The match is now a focal point in the ‘Australia Week’ celebrations organised by local authorities that recognise this sacrifice made by the Australians who retook Villers-Bretonneux.
Played since 2009, the 32 Australian men and women selected to represent their country in the ANZAC Cup are done so based on their own personal or family connection to the armed forces rather than their specific footballing experience or ability, placing extra importance on the already momentous honour of pulling on the green and gold.
Players are hosted by adoring local families and spend time in the lead up to the game engaging with their opposition by running community footy clinics, sharing a dinner and guernsey presentation, taking part in a street parade and holding a combined training session, before attending the dawn service at the Australian National Memorial where the names of 10,733 Australian’s who lost their lives on the Western Front are listed.
Location: Villers-Bretonneux, France
Dates: April 24-26th
Current Holders: Australian Spirit (Men & Women)
2009 – Australia by 119 points
2010 – France by 24 points
2011 – Australia by 133 points
2012 – France by 69 points
2013 – France by 41 points
2014 – Australia by 229 points
2015 – Australia by 49 points
2016 – Australia by 85 points
2017 – Australia by 39 points
2018 – Australia by 17 points
Head to Head – Australia 6, France 3
2016 – Australia by 102 points
2017 – Australia by 43 points
2018 – Australia by 53 points
Head to Head – Australia 2, France 0