2014 sees the 6th edition of the ANZAC Cup on the battlefields of Villers Bretonneux in France. Thanks to the work of previous organisers and the CNFA this event continues to grow into a real highlight on the European calendar. This years event will be held on the 25th and 26thApril with accommodation for 2 nights, dinner and 2 breakfast’s for under €60. If you want to represent Australia and are an ex-pat currently living or travelling through Europe please send us through an email explaining why this would be a special match for you to play in. Playing abilities are not the focus, we are more interested in personal connections to the area or the armed forces and the ANZAC’s special history. In the tradition of the ANZAC spirit kiwi’s are more than welcome to apply. Please send through your applications to play in a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb 14th.
In what can only be described as an amazing experience AFL Europe’s Chairman and General Manager, Chris Dow and Ben MacCormack recently attended the 5th edition of the ANZAC Cup played in historic Villers-Bretonneux, France. This event has been built by the French league and a proud bunch of Australian Ex-Pats with a deep connection to the area and the Australian Armed Forces.
From the moment of arrival on Friday night at the organised dinner the spirit amongst both the French and Australians was obvious. Hearing the stories of why people from both sides had made the journey to represent their countries was emotional and inspiring.
Early on the Saturday morning both teams attended a wreath laying service at the Australian War Memorial dedicated to nearly 11,000 departed Australian soliders on the battlefields of France during WW1. In the graves at the site lay brothers at arm’s from our neighbours New Zealand and allies from the UK, Canada and Ireland. This is a truely special place.
After hearing stories of bravery and sheer determination to take the town of Villers-Bretonneux in a fierce battle three years after the bloodshed of Gallipoli on ANZAC Day it was time for a group of Australian’s to pull on the national jumper and play our indigenous game against the French national team.
The game was physical and the contest willing as both sides worked hard to gain the early advantage. A strong mark and goal by Albury native Reece Tanner got the Aussies started and this was celebrated with earnest. It was to prove the only time the team lead a well drilled and much fitter French team. They certainly grow them tall in France as the Australian team was undersized and looking outmatched.
After revisiting the values of the ANZAC’s the Aussies came out hard in the 2nd quarter and fought back strongly to get within 2 goals at half time. This certainly felt like a game to go to the wire.
With a stiffening breeze blowing straight down the short ground the French piled on the pain in the 3rd quarter kicking 7 goals to 2 in what proved to be the decisive blow. The French bigs were dominant around the ground while the smalls run out the game strongly.
The last quarter saw an early fightback by the Aussies to draw within 3 goals with plenty of time to spare. Fitness proved the difference as the quarter continued the Aussies were out on their feet. To their credit they never gave up and tried right until the siren which certainly honoured the past heroes of this area.
Q1: France 6.7.43 – 2.2.14 Australia
Q2: France 10.10.70 – 8.6.54 Australia
Q3: France 17.13.115 – 10.8.68 Australia
Q4: France 21.16.142 – 15.11.101 Australia
France: James-Robert Theis 4 / Wilfried Houvion 3 / Grégoire Patacq 3 / Emilien Martinez 3 / Valentin Mendoza 3 / Loïc Besnard 2 / Julien Bonnefoi 1 / Nicolas Vautrin 1 / Guillaume Lautré 1
Australia: Reece Tanner 4 / Jamie Wilson 4 / Joe Durling 2 / Ben MacCormack 2 / Nathan O’Neill 2 / Huw Ryan 1
Best on ground : Grégoire Patacq & Reece Tanner
By Thomas Urban
For many years, the city of Villers-Bretonneux has organized a whole week of festivities around the ANZAC Day (historic movies, photos exposition, visit of memorials). In 2009, some Australians with strong connections with the Villers-Bretonneux battle contacted CNFA (governing body of Australian Football in France) to organize a game between French and Australian expats in Europe, with the Australian team to be known as the Aussie Spirit. After 2 years playing on a soccer field, the city of Villers-Bretonneux and CNFA hired a farmers field in front the Memorial. Those involved in the event love to think that this site is where the first Australians played football in France, in 1916. Unfortunately this year the event has reverted back to the towns pitch because of increased cost to rent the field, however we hope that for the centenary we will be able to return to the oval looking up and the hill and memorial.
CNFA continue to promote Australian Football in France and develop the game in as many cities as possible. France has a relative lack of commemorative sports games except the ANZAC Cup. This provides them the opportunity to make some waves and let people know what Australian Football is and that it is not just an Australian sport but also a French one.
Villers-Bretonneux is a part of Australia: Melbourne Café, Victoria Street, Victoria School… When you arrive in VB there is an unusual feeling you are in France but also in Australia. It is natural that CNFA continue to play a role in the events of the week. As Australia has the MGC, CNFA dreams that VB oval will be the national ground and maybe one day the Essendon v Collingwood game will be played over at the foothills of the memorial.
The score of the game doesn’t matter, the friendship between our 2 countries is the most important. That’s why together we created the ANZAC: to keep the Spirit. Lest we forget.
2013 sees the 5th edition of the ANZAC Cup on the battlefields of Villers Bretonneux in France. Thanks to the work of previous organisers and the CNFA this event continues to grow into a real highlight on the European calendar. This years event will be held on the 20th April with accommodation for 2 nights, dinner and 2 breakfast’s for under €60. If you want to represent Australia and are an ex-pat currently living or travelling through Europe please send us through an email explaining why this would be a special match for you to play in. Playing abilities are not the focus, we are more interested in personal connections to the area or the armed forces and the ANZAC’s special history. In the tradition of the ANZAC spirit kiwi’s are more than welcome to apply. Please send through your applications to play in a short email to email@example.com by Feb 22nd.