The Vietnam Swans became the first multiple winner, taking home the SMATS Women’s Division trophy at the ATG 2023 Asian Championships.
To see the game of AFLW grow exponentially since the first exhibition game in 2016, to four teams participating at the inaugural AFLW Asian Championships in 2018, growing organically at a rapid rate during the pandemic to eight participating countries in 2023. It is a testament to all of the administrators, coaches, players and support staff who have helped create such a phenomenal culture for women’s football in Asia and the associated record breaking outcomes in such a short stretch of time.
Swans player keeps eye on the prize during W Grand Final.
The Vietnam Swans (5-0 overall) were crowned the inaugural champions of AFLW back in 2018 and became the first women’s team to win the tournament for the second time. This year’s success was built off the back of an enormous amount of self-belief, a gun and run midfield and the ability to lock the ball in their forward half. Veteran Chia Sabbatucci was the architect up forward and deserves the honour of being a double-crowned AFLW Champion in what may be her final tournament as a Swan.
Back to back glory at any level of sport can be mightily difficult to achieve and the Singapore Wombettes came agonizingly close, eventually going down narrowly to the Swans in the Grand Final by three points. The Wombettes played their hearts out and dominated their games by the sheer weight of their quality personnel across the field. A fitter Sinead ‘Red’ Kennedy, who was clearly hampered on the field as she continues to recovers from catastrophic surgery, may have made all the difference and will always be an unknown.
Wombettes had another outstanding campaign and remain powerhouses in the W Division.
The Cambodian Eagles (2-2) were the biggest improvers in the women’s division and making a semi final appearance will hold them in good stead moving forwards, whilst the experienced Malaysian Warrior Women’s made the semi finals again and are now up there as the most consistent performers within this format since it’s inception.
The Cambodian Apsaras were big improvers in 2023, making their maiden semi final appearance.
The HK Dragons made their first appearance since 2019 and will only improve as they regenerate their squad from here onwards, as will the hosting Thailand Tigers, who have made giant strides in their development and have strengthened their squad on the domestic front with an injection of more Gaelic players.
The Tigers CUBS boosted their W numbers, again showcasing their fantastic development work.
The Indonesian Volcanoes (1-3) in only their second appearance at this level found the going slightly trickier this time around and will come back a better side, who is that extra year more experienced, whilst the Pakistani women’s side (1-3) made a very impressionable start in their debut campaign and wooed their crowd with their hard tackling, passionate approach and team spirit.
The Pakistani women’s team were the fairy-tale story of the day – an outstanding achievement to make it in the first place, and even won their first game!