Before Gallipoli, Australian forces first saw action in WWI in German New Guinea, when a small force of 2,000 took possession of the island after a brief struggle. There were a few rugby league players in the Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force, most notably James Patrick Redmond.
By that time "Pony Redmond" had played four seasons of first grade with Glebe and was a rising star in the game. After the Australian Force returned he re-enlisted (listing his occupation as "musician") and served at Gallipoli with the 18th Battalion, but the rookie soldiers were thrown in the deep end and suffered a 50% casualty rate in their first engagement.
Redmond was one of them, he suffered shell concussion and deafness, which would stay with him for the rest of his life. Shipped to England to convalesce he was able, after he recovered, to resume his football career and played with some Australian military teams in England in 1916.
But his injuries were severe enough to end his soldiering days and he returned to Australia that year. Football must have been some sort of release for him, and after moving house he joined Western Suburbs in 1917 and played four seasons with them before being forced – by the residential qualifications then in force - to join the new St George club in 1921.
"Pony" appeared in the Dragons' first match against Glebe, but his heart was with the Dirty Reds and he re-joined his mates there in 1922 for two more seasons before having a final year at Wests before plying his trade in the bush for a couple of years.
In his history of Glebe RLFC author Max Solling recalls speaking to former team mates of Redmond who attested to the fact that he came home from the war a changed man. The happy-go-lucky wisecracking showman of the pre-war days had seen too much horror and pain to ever be the same. Like so many other servicemen, he was haunted by the demons for the rest of his days.
He died in 1963. Lest we forget.