Last week I got the privilege of travelling to Villers-Brettoneux in France to play as part of the 10th ANZAC Cup AFL match played commemorating the battle which took place there 100 years ago, in which Australian troops played a huge role. The footy match now takes place every year between an Australian Spirit team and the French National Squad, and the whole town of V-B gather together to remember and celebrate the events that took place 100 years ago.
We had an absolutely action packed couple of days there, jamming in a coaching session with the local children, a joint Australian and French training, attended the Dawn Service at the Australian Memorial, dinners with our host families and a player march through the town centre. There were Australian flags and art work and influences throughout the whole town and surrounding areas, a surreal sight to see on the other side of the world and so far away from home. To see the impact of Australia and just how much the people of Villers-Brettoneux enjoy having Australians visit and attend was a humbling and emotional experience.
As a late ring-in, I ended up being the sole Kiwi and playing the actual match for the French team, but seeing the personal family connections to the area and events of the past for many of my team mates and Australian players was incredibly special and moving. Both games were intense and of a great quality, with the men’s result very close this year! It was also a fantastic chance to make some incredible lasting friendships.
I cannot put into words the generosity, hospitality and friendliness shown to us all by the people of Villers-Brettoneux, especially the families who hosted all the players. We have never eaten so much cheese in our lives! Also, a huge thank you to AFL Europe for making this event possible and for running it so smoothly.
I honestly struggle to find the words to describe the experience, but I know it will be one that will stay with me the rest of my life.