RugbyLeague’s commitment to honouring those who have served our nation and whosecourage and sacrifice has forged a bond between Rugby League and the ArmedServices will again be commemorated in ANZAC Day tributes at matches in Sydneyand Melbourne today.
While thelong-standing ANZAC Day clash between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters in Sydney hasbecome a gathering point for war veterans and current service personnel afterthe city’s ANZAC Day march, the significance of the ANZAC Day tradition inRugby League has grown to feature a second match in Melbourne between the Stormand New Zealand Warriors.
It is a tradition that honours men like Stan Carpenter,the first captain of Newcastle and an Australian representative who was twice recommended for theVictoria Cross; Edward Larkin, the rugby union international who was thefirst full-time secretary of the NSW Rugby League and the Labor Member forWilloughby, who was killed at Gallipoli on ANZAC Day in 1915; Herbert ‘Nutsy’Bolt, the NSW and Newtown centre killed at Fromelles in 1916 whose body wasexhumed and identified in 2010; Jack ‘Bluey’ Watkins, the Eastern Suburbs andAustralian lock forward who served on the Western Front; Clem Kennedy, theSouth Sydney and Australian half who fought on the Kodoka Track; and JackLennox, the Rabbitohs and Dragons player who died as a prisoner of war whileworking on the Burma-Thailand Railway.
They areamong the hundreds of Rugby League players and the thousands of fans who havededicated their lives to the defence of this country and who have inspired aRugby League ANZAC Day tradition that to this day captures the hearts of fansboth here in Australia and New Zealand, and around the world.
Their legacywill again be honoured, along with that of all of our nation’s service men andwomen, both past and present, at today’s Rugby League ANZAC Day matches thathave become some of the most celebrated events of the Telstra Premiershipseason.
The ANZAC Daymatches continue a tradition that dates back to 1926 when, on the first ANZACDay holiday Monday, foundation clubs Easts and Balmain played in front of20,000 fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Newtown and Sydney Universityplayed at Glebe’s Wentworth Park, with the first Rugby League match on ANZACDay played in 1927, when Glebe met Western Suburbs, also at the SCG.
Last yearCorporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG – a Roosters fan – honoured Rugby League bybeing part of an official ceremony which each year is developed in consultationwith RSL NSW and the Australian Defence Force to honour Australian and NewZealand service personnel, both past and present, as well as a post-matchceremony that features the presentation of the perpetual ANZAC Cup to thewinning team from the Roosters-Dragons match and the Spirit of ANZAC Award tothe Man of the Match.
TheDragons-Roosters match will kick-off today at 4pm at Sydney’s Allianz Stadiumwhile the Storm-Warriors match will start at 7pm at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.