The National Rugby League today announced a four-year partnership with the Australian War Memorial throughout the ANZAC Centenary commemorations.
The NRL will work closely with the Australian War Memorial to ensure the ANZAC Centenary is respectfully commemorated every year to 2018.
And the work includes teaching players and staff about rugby league's links with military efforts throughout the past 100 years, helping to honour servicemen and women past and present.
Ahead of the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith announced the partnership today at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, alongside Dr Brendan Nelson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial.
They were joined by representatives from NRL clubs Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra, the Warriors, Melbourne, Canberra, South Sydney, Cronulla, Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Penrith, along with players from the Australian Jillaroos, the NZ Kiwi Ferns, the Junior Kangaroos and the Junior Kiwis.
The relationship with the Australian War Memorial (AWM) includes:
• The AWM will help run an education program for NRL players and staff so they gain a greater understanding of the ANZAC Centenary and the contributions rugby league made throughout the 100 years of service.
• The AWM will provide the NRL's Heroes & Legends Museum access to its collection to assist in researching rugby league identities who participated in military efforts.
• The AWM and NRL will work together to identify individual stories involving rugby league identities and share information to bring their stories to life. This will assist in raising awareness of, and paying tribute to, the many thousands who have fought and died on the field of battle.
Mr Smith said the formal partnership with the Australian War Memorial was a powerful way for the code to help honour our defence forces.
"Central to this partnership will be an exchange of information, a sharing of stories and our rugby league community gaining a greater understanding of the contributions our own family has made to military efforts over the past 100 years," Mr Smith said.
"We will work together on initiatives over the next four years that will further enhance the community's understanding of the sacrifice of our servicemen and women over the last 100 years and, in that way, pay tribute to those who served.
"This is one time in our season when the football merely plays a bit part and rightly so. To be able to play even a small role in these broader commemorations of ANZAC Day is significant enough, but to be able to do that with the assistance of the Australian War Memorial is an honour."
Dr Brendan Nelson said the partnership between the Memorial and the NRL provided an opportunity for the code to commemorate the First World War Centenary commemorations with hundreds of thousands of supporters around Australia.
"This is a time when all Australians should reflect and feel proud about the commitment and sacrifice of our servicemen and women over more than 100 years," Dr Nelson said.
"The Memorial is pleased to be working with the game of rugby league to highlight these commemorations and respectfully observe them on ANZAC Day."
This year, the NRL has been working closely with the Australian Defence Force, the RSL and Australian War Memorial on a 10-day Anzac Centenary commemorative program, which will stretch across Round 8 of the NRL Premiership – the ANZAC Round – and into the Representative Round, which includes the ANZAC Test Match between Australia and New Zealand.
Today's announcement was followed by a tour of the Australian War Memorial as well as a wreath-laying ceremony.
One of those to attend was Sydney Roosters player Aidan Guerra, who said ANZAC Day was always a special one on the calendar.
"I have played in a number of ANZAC Day matches and there is always a significant amount of pride on show by all teams who take part," Guerra said.
"But equally significant is the enormous pride from the defence force personnel who are present as well as the supporters.
"It is one of the most significant days for Australians and New Zealanders and I am always humbled to play such a role in it."