Aussies to take Peronne 100 years after WW1 victory
It will be a significant moment for Australian Football internationally this Saturday with the inaugural Robert MacTier Cup taking place in Peronne in the North of France, a commemorative exhibition game that is set to bring together the local community, players and supporters from around the globe to honour the Australian soldiers that liberated the town from German occupation in 1918.
24 players will represent the two sides, named The Liberators and The ANZACS, with the match held on the ground that once made up the battlefields of the Somme territory which were controlled by German forces for the four years prior to the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin.
Chief Organiser of the Australian Cultural Day celebrations, Matthew Gurry, says that much like their well-known compatriots to the west in Villers-Bretonneux, the city and people of Peronne are “forever grateful to the Australian troops” who fought for their freedom.
Despite the obvious geographic, cultural and language challenges involved with organising a game of Australian Football in foreign territory, Gurry said that the process has been a relatively smooth one and hoped the final product can be shared around the local area going forward.
“The city has been extremely open to all of our ideas and supportive in showcasing Australian culture and talent,” Gurry said.
“We have players (and their families) coming from all over the world to for this event and it’s their shared dedication and ability to recognise the importance an event like this that makes it all the more important and exciting to be running.”
“We [Australia] were a nation of only 4 million and lost over 60,000 of our boys it was the highest loss per capita in the world at the time… which was basically a generation of our young sportsmen lost.
“I’m hoping this Australian cultural day helps the people of the region to remember and honour the sacrifice of the Australian soldiers for another 100 years.”
Players will arrive in France on Friday before teams are presented at town hall with a jumper ceremony before they host an AusKick clinic for local children on Saturday morning in preparation for the match.
The game itself will be supported by a BBQ, drinks and a party put on by the town of Peronne, half-time entertainment and performances by Australian band Belle Roscoe.
The significance of the occasion will certainly not be lost on Brad Agnew as he steps onto the field, with the Glenelg man having flown all the way out from Adelaide to represent The Liberators.
“I have played Australian Rules football my entire life and it embodies all that is great about our country; fighting spirit, hard work, blood, sweat and tears and going into battle alongside 20 of your mates to give your all to get the win,” Agnew said.
“It will mean the world to me to be able to promote not only this great game but represent the men who served and sacrificed their lives to live in the world we live in today.”
Agnew’s sentiments were echoed by ANZAC’s player, Alex Pietrus of the Manchester Mosquitoes, who said it was “an honour” to pull on the jumper and remember the fallen.
“What they sacrificed all those years ago has allowed me to live a life of freedom and enjoyment… I promise to play with the typical Australian spirit, passion and good nature,” Pietrus said.
Whilst only a friendly match, the two will be hoping their side can lift the trophy named after Robert MacTier, Victoria Cross recipient from the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin.
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe
Christopher Sharpley – Wandsworth Demons
Scott Schneidewind – Wandsworth Demons
Daniel Sullivan – Wimbledon Hawks
Justin Holloway – London Swans
Alex Pietrus – Manchester Mosquitoes
Tate Giadresco – Glenelg (SANFL)
David Hall – Amsterdam Devils
Ben Polmear – Port Malmo Maulers
Andrew Unsworth – Paris Cocks
Pierre Lechasles – ALFA Lions
Mathieu Ostorero – ALFA Lions
Pete Richter – Hamburg Dockers
Mitchell Hyde – Dubai Dingoes
COACH – Jeff Castles
Broadie Borg – Wandsworth Demons
Adam Jeffrey – Wandsworth Demons
Zak Bozanich – West London Wildcats
Mick Gee – Galway Magpies
Brad Agnew – Glenelg (SANFL)
Liam Robinson – Tyne Tees Tigers
Jayson Cox – Hamburg Dockers
Tyson Vitale – Amsterdam Devils
Brett Petersen – Port Malmo Maulers
Karl Robson – Paris Cocks
Thibaut Picard – ALFA Lions
Thomas Lechasles – ALFA Lions
Thomas Francon – ALFA Lions
Adrian Del Campo
COACH – Peter Jeffery
COACH – Heather Muir