Manly players share Anzac ties

Two Manly players have shared their intimate stories of family connections to the Australian armed services ahead of an emotional Anzac Day clash with traditional rivals Melbourne.

Back-rowers Tom Symonds and Blake Leary each have family who have served their country and each say they are lucky they live in a time when they can choose their own careers due to the sacrifices of those that went before.

Tom Symonds' grandfather served in the Second World War and was shot in a training accident, while Leary's great grandfather was part of the light infantry that landed at Gallipoli, while his grandfather and father also served.

"My great grandfather was part of the 40,000 light horsemen and was given the Gallipoli Star as a medallion which was quite an honour to be a part of the bloodline," Leary said.

"My grandfather was a paratrooper in Korea... my father served too but doesn't talk about it. 

"Being the fourth generation into a long line of Anzacs is pretty special. My brother and I are the first not to be in the military but my father's that supportive of my football."

Symonds said hearing the stories about the sacrifices that were made put everything into perspective and think about what's really important.

"My grandfather Yooka Symonds – that's actually his nickname but everyone still calls him that – he's got an identical twin who also has a nickname from when they were about two years old, his name's Curly," Symonds said.

"They went off and served in the Second World War. My grandfather was actually shot in a training accident up at Port Kembla, he fell in a water tank, his twin brother Curly happened to be there and dived in and saved him.

"He got shot through the torso, spent about 18 months in hospital, they went up to Darwin and served up there, they were part of the gunners in case any of the Japanese bombers came. He served up there for a couple of years and came back to Sydney after that."

Symonds said he never really considered following in his grandfather's footsteps.

"I don't think it's for me – footy's hard enough for me so I couldn't imagine how tough it must be going to war and serving. This day of the year, it's a good time to remember and reflect on all the service the soldiers have put in.

"It's massive – being part of a footy game, it doesn't compare to the war but being able to commemorate it and being part of a big occasion celebrating the Anzacs because that's what it's all about, showing our respects to them, is going to be awesome.

"I know it'll be pretty touching when we're out there getting ready for the game and the Last Post playing and all that sort of stuff.

"Everything that goes with it we're going to be doing, walk out with some ex-servicemen and wearing the special kit, it's all going to add to the excitement of the day."

Symonds said he'd never played on Anzac Day before, despite spending several years at the Roosters who have a traditional Anzac Day clash against the Dragons, because he'd been injured or not selected when those games rolled around.

"I missed out on a couple through injury and one year I wasn't in the team so it's something I've always wanted to tick off so I'm pretty lucky the Sea Eagles have got a chance to play on Anzac Day."

He added the Sea Eagles, who are last on the ladder with just one win from seven games, also really needed a win against the only side they've so far defeated this year following a hard-fought 24-22 win at Brookvale in Round 2.

Video courtesy of seaeagles.com.au