To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, the men’s and women’s Australian Spirit sides will go head-to-head with the French national teams to contest the 10th annual ANZAC Cup, honouring those who fought to reclaim the town on the night of April 24th, 1918.
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.
While the match is a key feature of the commemorations, the final score is far from front of mind as the week acts to bind Australia and France in honouring the sacrifices made by the ANZAC’s.
2017 captain of the women’s Australian Spirit side Hayley Canton described the event as “one of the best experiences of my life.”
“The football itself is fast-paced and closely contested but the best part is what happens off the field. The opportunity to bond with the people of Villers-Bretonneux through football and our shared history is something you can’t experience anywhere else.”
“We are welcomed into their town and their homes, and experience amazing hospitality. Attending the dawn service and seeing what our countrymen fought for and why the people of Villers-Bretonneux are so grateful for our veterans cements the relationship between our two countries.”
Canton’s sentiments are echoed by her male counterpart Jay Treloar, who will again represent the men’s team in Villers-Bretonneux after being anointed the sides spiritual leader in 2017.
“The chance to play in Villers-Bretonneux as part of the ANZAC Cup is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done and something I will always cherish,” he said.
“The way we were embraced by the local townspeople left many of us gobsmacked and probably a little overwhelmed by their amazing hospitality. It just highlighted what an amazing group of people those ANZAC’s must have been, that their spirit and reputation still lives on today.”
’’It’s an amazing opportunity for descendants of those brave ANZACs who fought at Villers-Bretonneux and served throughout the world to embrace their memory and pay their respect. I can only say to anyone who may have the opportunity to take part, grab it’’
Stay across afleurope.org for extended coverage in the lead-up to the 2018 ANZAC CUP including player spotlights and match features over the coming weeks.
ANZAC CUP HISTORY:
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
Head to Head – Australia 6, France 3
2016 – Australia by 102 points
2017 – Australia by 43 points
Head to Head – Australia 2, France 0
Australia Spirit Men;
Daniel CLIFFORD, Nathan COSTLEY, Michael COWAN, Ben HUNN, Elliot LIVAI VOLAVOLA, Jake MCINTOSH, Matt MENNEKE, Tyson MIHOCEK, Eddie MORGAN, Lloyd QUINLAN, Karl ROBSON, Michael ROSS, Tim SAVAGE, Mitch SKELLY, Daniel STEER, Daniel TRACEY, Conor WILSON.
Australia Spirit Women;
Emily BOURKE, Hayley CANTON, Sarah CARTHEW, Rianne COLDEBELLA, Victoria COX, Emma HORNER, Caitlin FAY, Caitlyn JEFFRESS, Priscilla LODGE, Maddy MURPHY, Annabel SHEWRING, Katie STONE, Amy TAYLOR, Courtney THOMAS, Bianca VALENZISI
Anthony BERNAD, Nicolas BOCHE, Pierre BOSCART, Clement BOUCHET, Thomas CREPIN, Julien DAGOIS, Herve DESJARDIN, Alex DULCHAIN, Maxime FAVERO, Cyrille GANDOLFO, Baudoin GERMOND, Christopher MARTINE, Vincent MONNIER, Jeremy SARDIN, Raphael UBEDA, Antoine WERNER,
Bridgette ALLEN, Naima At El MOUTEN, Gisele Ben KEMOUN, Melanie COLOT, Catherine GILES, Melanie LEROY, Genevieve MARTIN, Claire PEREZ, Anne PILLE, Berengere PORTAL, Camille PORTAL
AUSTRALIAN SPIRIT V FRANCE – ANZAC CUP
WEDNESDAY 25TH APRIL – VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, FRANCE
FIRST BOUNCE: 12pm Women’s, 2pm Men’s
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe