Inside this week's Big League magazine...
WHEN football matches are played on Anzac Day it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing war with sports contests. The sacrifices made by those men and women who fought for our country on foreign soil and at home should never be held alongside the comparably trivial pursuit of two teams trying to best each other, but can we not celebrate the shared qualities that give us cause for such admiration?
When a team is victorious in the modern era we hear players and coaches speak of working for each other and not letting your mates down. Standing side by side with men who wear the same uniform as you and together presenting an unbreakable bond that the opposition can’t hope to match.
Perhaps it is for this reason that NRL matches both in Sydney and Melbourne have struck such a chord with players and fans alike, a chance for a new generation to marvel at the commitment and courage of the modern players while paying tribute to the young Australians and Kiwis who fought so bravely for our freedom.
Players from both the Kangaroos and Kiwis spoke in revered tones in Canberra last week of the chance to spend time with war veterans and Victoria Cross Medal recipients in the lead-up to the mid-year Test, putting the weariness of their own battered bodies into new context.
The spirit of the Anzacs and the courage of all rugby league players to me embodies what is so great about living in this part of the world, a willingness to do anything to help a mate, the courage to go on when others might think it too hard and, when it is all said and done, the respect to shake hands and share a beer when the full-time whistle blows.
When the Last Post is played we’ll stand as one, bow our heads and think of those who came before us and those who continue to fight in our name. Then we’ll be seated and be thankful that the warriors who wear our team’s colours are merely playing a game.
The old adage that if they’re good enough they’re old enough has never seemed to ring more true than the 2013 season of the NRL. More and more we are witnessing talented kids still in their teens mixing it with seasoned professionals and holding their own.
The talent on display in last week’s Under-20s Origin fixture was of an extremely high standard while in this issue alone we profile three young men who all played in representative fixtures last weekend, the eldest of whom is 22-year-old Wade Graham.
In little more than three months Tohu Harris has won a World Club Challenge, made his NRL debut and represented his country while Ryan James appears on the verge of Origin selection after just 27 NRL games.
It’s an extraordinary progression and further highlights the success of our junior development programs.