Anzac Day is a huge day for North Queensland hooker Ray Thompson and with his father Phil currently serving in the Australian Army, his recall to the Cowboys team in their two-point win over Newcastle made it all the more special.
A permanent fixture in the Cowboys team since 2011, Thompson – before playing the Knights on Saturday – had spent the first seven rounds of the year in the Intrust Super Cup with the Townsville Blackhawks as coach Paul Green preferred a hooking rotation of Rory Kostjasyn and Jake Granville.
Yet Thompson kept committed and it paid off on a day which he holds very close to his heart.
"It was an honour to play on a day like Anzac Day. It has always meant a lot to our family and to be able to be back playing on a momentous day like this is unreal," Thompson told NRL.com
"It's always played a huge part in our family growing up. We'd always go to the dawn services and support the old man so to be able to play on a day like this and honour the Anzacs and troops who are currently serving is very special.
"He's not serving anywhere at the moment so he's back home in Townsville. They had a bit of a march this morning and they're probably playing two-up somewhere and having a few beers now.
"Dad would definitely have a bit of a smile on his face and that's what you play for, you play to make your parents proud and happy."
In what was a memorable game for Thompson for more than one reason, he certainly didn't expect to be thrown into proceedings against Newcastle so early.
With Granville ruled out of the remainder of the game after seven minutes due to concussion, Thompson had to stick solid in the middle of the paddock for 73 minutes, which he did with flying colours.
Making 36 tackles for only two misses, plus three tackle breaks and a memorable run which led to a Cowboys try in the first 90 seconds of the second half, a modest Thompson played down his courageous effort.
"I actually thought Jakey would've seen out the first half to be honest [before the concussion] and I thought he would've come back on but we have trained for those kind of situations before so there was no stress," Thompson said.
"I had a few hiccups and a couple of little things I'll need to fix up but I'm just happy with the win. It always takes a bit to adjust and I was definitely blowing in different patches in that game because the pace is a lot different to the Queensland Cup, so I'll have to work hard to accustom myself with it again."
Thompson stressed he would need to maintain his solid form in the NRL with a few more of his teammates chasing his spot.
"I'm not naive to the fact that Rory and Cameron King are waiting for their chance," Thompson said.
"I know Rory wants to force his way back in and Kingy is waiting for a call-up so I'm not naive to the fact I have to work really hard to keep the spot."