Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
There’s nary an Australian or New Zealander who doesn’t feel something when the Last Post is played. A shiver up the spine. Goosebumps across the flesh. Pride. Respect. Longing. Loss.
But while most of us will shuffle away after the last note sounds to send the two-up pennies high, be with family and friends or find a quiet place to gather the thoughts, spare a thought for Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargeaves.
In the few minutes before the traditional Roosters-Dragons Anzac Day clash, one of the toughest in the game is pulling himself together to play the toughest game of all.
For Waerea-Hargeaves, the 60 seconds when the crowd of more than 38,000 falls into a deafening silence of respect and remembrance brings forth a flood of emotions that the bruising Kiwi prop struggles to contain.
“I'm looking back and remembering all those moments, all the footage that I've watched over the past and all the stories that my dad and my family have spoken to me about when they go to war,” says Waerea-Hargreaves when asked what is going through his head during those spine tingling pre-game moments.
“It’s tough to keep it in check, but I played that game for my dad and all the Diggers from the past – it’s very special for me.”
Waerea-Hargreaves comes from a proud military family, with father Wayne and cousin Jared Purcell having served with the New Zealand and Australian armies respectively.
From Kosovo to Cambodia, Iraq to Somalia, if it’s on the DEFAT Do-Not-Travel list Wayne Hargreaves has probably been there over the course of 20 years as a water engineer working with the New Zealand and US military as well as the UN.
And it’s the old man the Roosters bookend has at the forefront of his mind when he’d normally be focused on belting the opposite pack into submission.
“I just have my dad in my head when the Last Post is playing.
“I’m definitely not thinking about footy, I’m going through those memories and even talking about it now give me goose bumps.
“But as soon as it's over you look around and realise what you're there for.
“It's a game of footy and it's back to playing that game of footy.”
And what a game of footy the big man plays, with 21 hit-ups for 156 metres and 29 tackles laying one hell of a platform for the Roosters to romp to a comfortable 34-14 win.
But on just about the one day of the year where the footy falls into the periphery, Waerea-Hargreaves is happy to simply be a part of the game’s tribute to the Anzac legend and the two nations’ armed forces.
“You don't really understand how important these sort of games are to me and my family and going out there with the Last Post, and the minute of silence was pretty touching.
“For me personally and my family, it's a massive honour. Just to take part in such a great occasion, to get the win is good but it’s just very special to be a part of all this.”