Following the Blues from Cambodia

by Sophie Smith

Having lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the past three years, I would’ve come home a lot earlier I think if this region of the world did not have the Australian Network! At least five games every weekend of AFL has been my saviour and watching my beloved Carlton team play is always a weekend highlight.

I am a Physical Education teacher here at the International School of Phnom Penh and obviously worldwide and cultural sports are important in our program, being an international school. When I think of Australian sport my mind immediately jumps to the skillful game of Aussie Rules. YouTubing the ‘best of’ highlights to my kids always ends in “wow, what tough men” or “why is the ball oval shaped?” to “they wear no padding?” from the students. A game of touch Aussie rules is always met with a loud cheer (and some ‘boos’ from some Australian students who don’t like playing with my Carlton branded football. I tell them if they get another footy, or a sherrin, then I’d maybe consider playing with that instead).

I still have not seen Chris Judd play live (having moved away when he was traded to the Blues) and whenever I see him wear the navy blue I smile. I can’t wait to hopefully this year see him run out in our colours. Suprisingly I am planning on watching the Saturday night game of Carlton v Essendon on July the 23rd this year!

This year is a make or break year I feel for Ratten and the team. All the pre-game press for this match against Essendon had reporters saying that Essendon have the better team, at least the better under 22 year old players. Not sure if I agree as I look at the likes of Henderson, Garlett, Yarran, Curnow, Hampson, Gibbs and Kreuzer and think they’re pretty good players!  We did well to stay within 5 goals of Collingwood last week (as much as I hate them they are playing well. I was happy to be living here and away from Melbourne when they won last year) and as all commentators and sports writers said, this week against Essendon will be a true test to see where we are in terms of ladder position and ability.

Essendon, as much as I dislike them since the ’93 grand final, are playing well under the champion of James Hird. I must admit my hatred of Essendon (with Collingwood taking my number one spot) has weakened somewhat due to my partner having close ties to the Essendon Football club for the past 30 years (father working in the medical team for longer than Sheedy was apart of them team). Being on holidays and having his mobile ring every half hour with Hirdy on the other line does soften the hatred. I still love to beat them though, especially with their track record against us being very one sided in their favour lately.

Normally I will head to either a sports bar in town  (Score) or the local Aussie owned bar/restaurant (Aussie XL) which was, only over the summer, frequented by the young West Coast Eagles players in which they traveled around Cambodia to bond and see  unfortunate people and their living conditions. A proud West Coast Eagles jumper signed by all (and ‘Woosha’) is taking pride over the bar right now. Carl the owner loves it and the West Coast Eagles are now affiliating themselves (for the first time ever) with the Aussie Rules football team here in Cambodia, aptly named the Khmer Roos (they play competitions in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand). But, this week is Khmer (Cambodian) New Year and everything is closed. So I have to make do with the confines of my house to watch the game, which I actually prefer so I can listen to the commentators and yell without fear of looking weird or too one-eyed. It is very hot here now with high humidity making every day over 40 degrees as ‘real feel heat’. I watched it sweating – the close game didn’t help my body temperature! But I loved the fact I was watching it live and before anyone else in Melbourne who didn’t go to the game. So Saturday at 11am I sat down on my couch for what should be a great game. It didn’t disappoint.

We had a terrible first quarter and I actually did feel sorry for Essendon and the two early knee injuries that occurred. I would never wish that on any player. I kept thinking that this will test their bench and surely we will run away with it with a 2 day extra break between games and a full interchange bench. I also wonder what ramifications would occur with the new sub-rule. I for one hate it and think it will only increase soft tissue injuries on player towards the end of the game. A good source of mine said the players are struggling with it aerobically. Surely that is the same for every club.

I love watching Garlett in the forward line with his freakish skills and Yarran in the backline is a revelation.  Watching him run across the half back line is great to see, even pushing up and kicking for goal. It will be good to see Kreuzer back in the team and with Warnock rucking so well, pushing Kreuzer to spend more time in the forward line and helping out Wait as the other ‘tall’ will be a sight to see I hope.

In the end it was a great game, hard fought, many stoppages and lots of times in the last quarter you saw what you thought was a match winning moment.

A draw is an empty, weird feeling. I can’t remember the last time Carlton drew. Was it against Essendon at Waverly Park or the MCG when ‘Sticks’ Kernahan kicked it out of bounds on the full? Then, as a kid, I felt like we had ‘lost’ the game and not beaten defeat. This is exactly how I feel for this game; I think we should’ve won and Essendon played well to draw.

Either way, it is great to see two such great, historic and proud clubs clawing their way back to the top of the ladder. It was great to finally see a game between them both of such importance. These two clubs will certainly be pushing for premierships in the next 5 years. A thing the AFL, and fans alike, will no doubt be happy to see.

So from Cambodia – GO BLUES!


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Hi Sophie. Sounds like you have the best of both worlds – living in an interesting, exotic place and getting good football coverage – without the ads -paradise!

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