Matt Trodden,, NRL.com
There are few more important days on the Australian calendar than ANZAC Day. A time when a whole nation stops, remembers and celebrates the courage and sacrifice of the fallen soldiers and how their efforts allow us to experience the lives we lead today.
It is a day we are taught about from a very young age, and along with it come a litany of traditions including the dawn service, a street parade through the city and the popular game of 'two-up'. Alongside that, sport, and in particular rugby league, has become part of the celebration of the day and its history. The first ANZAC Day rugby league game was played in 1927 between Glebe and Western Suburbs, but the now traditional clash is between St George Illawarra (previously St George) and the Sydney Roosters.
St George and Eastern Suburbs clashed on ANZAC Day in 1959, 1961, 1978, 1979, and since 2002 St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters have re-ignited this game, creating one of the most exciting matches on the calendar. On Thursday afternoon more than 30,000 are expected to pack Allianz Stadium and cheer on their team, aside from the moment of silence, as the Last Post is played.
While St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters have a history and rivalry which stems back a long way, including the 2010 Grand Final, it is this game which people most remember these two teams. It is Matt Head’s sideline conversion in 2005 as the clock wound down to kick-start the Dragons’ charge towards second place. It’s just last year, when the Dragons scored twice in the final two minutes to win the unwinnable.
In recent years another ANZAC Day game has been added to the NRL calendar, as the Melbourne Storm and Warriors go head-to-head at AAMI Park. The first of these games was played in 2009 with an amazing 14-14 draw a fitting end to the celebration of the sacrifices made by soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.
As we sit and reflect on Thursday on the history and tradition of the ANZAC spirit, sport becomes one of Australia and New Zealand’s prime forms of celebration. Two fantastic ANZAC Day games will be played, celebrating both the past and present on the battlefield and to a lesser extend the rugby league field. We will stand in silence remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice as the Last Post is played, and then not stop cheering until after the final whistle is blown on the field.
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