WEEK IN REVIEW – ANZAC CUP 2018
Thursday saw the curtain pulled down on a historic 10th edition of AFL Europe’s ANZAC Cup in Villers-Bretonneuxfor another year, with the three-day event heralded a roaring success by organisers, players, volunteers & onlookers alike.
From His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, accepting his personalised Australian guernsey from team captains Priscilla Lodge & Eddie Morgan, to the sixty local French school children attending the player led AusKick clinic, ANZAC Cup 2018 received fantastic support and culminated in two extremely competitive and well-spirited games of football.
Players arrived in Villers-Bretonneux on Tuesday and were given time to meet the local host families who would take them in for the duration of their stay, before congregating at the Stade Football Louis Timmerman in the town centre where they were met by a crowd of students and parents eager to try their hand at Australian football.
The AusKick clinic ran for well over the allotted 90-minute timeframe as the number of children looking to get participate continued to grow to over sixty, with the smiles on the faces of the children only matched by those of the Australian players.
Both Australian and French sides joined for a combined training run in the evening, before a guernsey presentation at Le Melbourne pub saw Australian Captains Priscilla Lodge and Eddie Morgan deliver moving speeches about their family connection to Villers-Bretonneux and World War One.
ANZAC Day on Wednesday began in the early hours of the morning with players and staff joining to walk from town to the Australian National War Memorial, before attending a moving Dawn Service along with thousands of others looking to pay their respects on the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
Captains Priscilla Lodge & Eddie Morgan were treated to a moment they will never forget following the service, as they presented personalised ANZAC Cup playing guernseys to AFL Europe patron His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, and to Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
The traditional parade through the town prior to the opening bounce followed and saw adoring locals come out to welcome both teams, setting the tone for a spirited day of football.
In front of a strong crowd, the Australian and French women opened proceedings with passionate renditions of their respective national anthems and an equally inspired brand of football, with France challenging the Australians right throughout, in a match where the final margin was far from indicative of the closeness of the contest.
The men’s match picked up from the manic intensity laid down by the girls earlier, with both sides clearly playing to win despite the terrific comradery that was on show. France looked poised to upset the Aussies midway through the third term, but a late Australian push made it two wins from two for the Spirit on the day.
See the full match reports
Both matches were played in an uncompromising nature but with extreme sportsmanship on show, making for a tribute befitting of the legacy of the ANZAC’s who saved Villers-Bretonneux 100 years earlier.
Thursday morning saw players gather to spend an emotional morning touring the Australian Corps Memorial in Le Hamel and the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux together, before parting ways to return home to their bases around Europe, the UK and back in Australia with a lifetime of fond memories and new friendships.
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe