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
Channel 7 report on the event