Titans excited by Anzac Day honour
He has watched on enviously as the Dragons and Roosters met annually on April 25, so Greg Bird is understandably excited that he and the Titans will help to launch the NRL's Anzac Day commemorations against the Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium.
Honouring the sacrifice of the Anzacs at Gallipoli 100 years ago and the servicemen and servicewomen to have followed will be at the heart of five games on Saturday, kicking off with the Warriors and Titans from 11.45am (EST) and culminating with the Broncos hosting the Eels at 8pm.
Each match will be preceded by an official Anzac Day ceremony including the Last Post, a moment’s silence, the Ode of Remembrance (to be read in both Maori and English at Mount Smart) and both national anthems.
Also featuring prior to the Warriors-Titans clash will be a performance by the Royal New Zealand Navy Band with 600 members of the defence forces to be hosted by the Warriors in a specially reserved bay.
The Titans will also be contributing to the pre-match ceremony with long-time strapper Darrell Madge, a Vietnam War veteran, to lead the team out onto the field wearing his military medals.
It will be the first time for the Titans and also Bird himself, that they will have played on Anzac Day and the Test and Origin star said it is an occasion he has always wanted to be part of.
"I've never played on Anzac Day or an Easter weekend or anything like that, I haven't had the opportunity to play on the big days like you see the Roosters and the Dragons play every year," Bird said.
"It's going to be quite special. The preparation, you can almost liken it to a Test match really. We're crossing the Tasman, we've got the Warriors on a big day and I'm sure they'll be up for it and hopefully our boys can rise to the occasion.
"I watch the Roosters play the Dragons at the SFS every year and you envy those games. Speaking to 'Mylesy' [Titans captain Nate Myles], he's been involved in them and I get excited watching those games on the big days.
"Singing the national anthem before a Titans match is going to be special for a lot of these guys who haven't had the opportunity to do that and hopefully we can go over there and play with the same resolve and confidence that we've shown the last couple of weeks."
Each of the 16 NRL clubs have regimented pre-game routines down to the exact minute before they take the field, a comfort both the Titans and Warriors will have to do without on Saturday as they partake in the 10-minute Anzac ceremony.
Rather than distracting them from the task at hand, coach Neil Henry has urged Gold Coast players to use the atmosphere of the occasion to fuel their performance.
"It's an emotional celebration and remembrance of the Anzac Day and what it means to poeple, Australians and New Zealanders," Henry said. "Mount Smart is a good stadium, it's nice and noisy there, hopefully a big crowd and I think we've just got to feed off the atmosphere.
"It will be a different routine because we'll have to go through a ceremony and a process there before we get to kick-off but we'll go and do a quick warm-up after the formalities are done and then get into the game.
"It's just about enjoying the occasion and it is a special event.
"Anzac Day falling on a Saturday and five games of footy on that day, I think that's fantastic. It's normally just reserved for the one game and we get to experience that as well so I think it's a good occasion and the young guys should lap it up because it won't happen too often."
The Broncos played on Anzac Day last year for the first time since 2008 but Josh Hoffman missed out due to injury and with Anzac Day not falling on a weekend again until 2020 it's an opportunity he is eager to take up.
Now a Titan and with proud Maori and Indigenous heritage, Hoffman said the chance to honour those to have fought for both countries will make it a game to remember.
"I missed out on that game, I was injured, so I didn't get the chance to play on Anzac Day so this one will be a very special one," said Hoffman, whose two tries last week were his first for the club.
"Hopefully we can go out there and put in a good effort for all the soldiers who have really helped out these two great countries.
"It's going to be a tough one, especially at Mt Smart. They're very vocal and always draw a crowd at that stadium so it's going to be a tough one and a tough task at hand. Hopefully we can get the win over there and pull a few fans over there as well."
The Warriors will wear their Te Maumaharatanga (The Memorial) strip, specially designed by Canterbury of New Zealand with the country’s servicemen and women, members, fans, club and Anzac heritage in mind.
A donation from the sale of each jersey in both New Zealand and Australia will go to the Fields of Remembrance Trust ($10 for an adult jersey, $5 for a child’s jersey), as a mark of respect to past and current serving armed forces personnel.
The Returned Services Association will have collectors at Mount Smart Stadium during the game.