Dragon L'Estrange's extra Anzac incentive
St George Illawarra hooker Heath L'Estrange will have extra motivation to play well in this weekend's annual Anzac Day clash with the Roosters, after recently discovering his great-grandfather Private Frank L'Estrange served in the Australian Army at Gallipoli during World War One.
As the NRL celebrates the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli this weekend with a bumper five-game schedule, L'Estrange said the occasion would be even more meaningful for himself and his family as the game pays tribute to the Anzacs.
"It will be very emotional because none of my family knew about it, this has only come up just a couple of weeks ago so for it to be bought out now especially with the perfect timing of Anzac Day it's very moving," L'Estrange told NRL.com.
"They were going through some of his old stuff because it has obviously been 100 years since it occurred, and they worked out he served in the Australian army after they found a letter and a few other things.
"I'm very proud to know one of my family members went over there and risked their life for this country and our way of life and I'll be definitely thinking of him this weekend."
Having played with the Roosters between 2004 and 2007 as well as the 2014 season, L'Estrange has experienced the all-important Anzac clash before.
While he only featured once in 2004 when the Roosters prevailed over the Dragons 11-8, the memories L'Estrange took from it live on – especially considering it was only his third NRL game.
"2004 was the only time I played in the Anzac game during my five seasons at the Roosters. It's such a big game, the Last Post has a spine-tingling effect, you could hear a pin drop," L'Estrange said.
"I wasn't fit to play in the game last season so I was filthy about that. I remember last year I was sitting behind the bench all suited up sitting next to [former Roosters prop and French captain] Remi Casty who didn't understand the emotion.
"I'm glad I'm a part of it again especially playing against the boys who I played against last year and I can't wait to get out there and play in the Red V jumper."
This weekend's game will also signal the sixth and seventh time an individual has participated in the annual Anzac clash for both the Roosters and Dragons, with L'Estrange and Roosters forward Willie Manu set to join current Panthers halfback Jamie Soward, Jason Ryles, Stuart Webb, Amos Roberts and Mark Riddell to have achieved the feat.
L'Estrange said he'd be on high alert for a Roosters team desperate to snap their three-game losing streak, as the Dragons look for their sixth straight win.
"They'll be coming out 100 miles an hour for us. They won't be worried about their poor form. They have been arguably the best side over the past three seasons," he said.
"We obviously just need to concentrate on what we need to do and let our defence look after itself and make sure we continue doing what we have been doing.
"We have had a pretty big run of games... Pretty much every team we have played this year have been good but we know we are a long way off from finals football."