Bromwich family history in Anzac clash
The annual Anzac Day clash between the Melbourne Storm and Warriors is an emotionally-charged event but it takes on personal significance for Kiwi captain and Storm leader Jesse Bromwich whose family was involved in World War II.
In times of tragedy, sport can feel trivial but it's also been an integral part of Australians and New Zealanders recovering from the devastation and fallout of such scarring periods.
For the Storm and Bromwich, it is a special privilege to be part of the Anzac Day commemorations as well as an opportunity to reflect on his own family history that he didn't discover until later on in life.
"My great grandfather, he was in the 24th Battalion. He went over there and fought for us New Zealanders," Bromwich said.
"My other grandfather – my dad's granddad, he went over to war as well. It's pretty important to my family.
"I've got kids now so I do imagine that sort of stuff. Some 16-year-olds got dragged over to the war, were given a gun and told to do their best.
"I can't imagine what those guys went through.
"We're playing footy and we think the whole world revolves around the result. At the end of the day, they're putting their lives on the line. We're definitely not doing that but if we can show we've got a little bit of that Anzac spirit they fought for that's what we're supposed to do.
"It's (family history) is something I picked up as a teenager later on in life. It wasn't something that was big for us as kids. It's something I would've liked to have known when I was young fella being brought up. It's good we celebrate Anzac Day the way we do now because it means a lot more to me and my family now."
Bromwich and his brother Kenny will use their history as inspiration for the Storm's clash against the Warriors. The 24th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Army during the Second World War that voyaged to the Middle East, based in Maadi in Egypt.
While Bromwich says his great grandfathers were fortunate not to "pay the ultimate price", 440 officers and men died in their service of the 24th Battalion, with over 600 personnel becoming prisoners of war.
"It's a game I circle on the calendar every year," Bromwich said. "It makes it feel a bit more in the Anzac spirit playing in the Australian team versus the New Zealand team. It's quite funny I'm in the Australian team.
"The atmosphere is incredible. It's the biggest game of the year for us as a club."
After recovering from a back issue that kept him out in Melbourne's sole loss this season to the Cronulla Sharks, Bromwich took part in the side's 30-26 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles at the weekend.
They scored 30 points in the first half but conceded 26 for the second time in the past two seasons, and the third time they leaked more than 20 points in that period.
"This club's built on defence," Bromwich said. "We were very lucky to win that one (last week). It's a good attitude we've got here to win a few games on the back of some average performances by our standards.
"I definitely think as a leader of the forwards, us as a group (in the) forwards, we've been working hard on that this week."
There's no doubt the Warriors and Storm will rise to the occasion in another chapter of their historic eight-year Anzac Day rivalry. Enjoying a much-needed 10-day turnaround after a tough start to the season and numerous personnel changes, Melbourne will be more than ready before another tough task in taking on the top-of-the-table St George-Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium.
"It's come at the right time now, we've had a few injuries as well now," Bromwich said. "It's a good time for us to freshen up and get some training in because we've got this tough game then a five-day turnaround.
"It's important we get the work in this week and it will keep us in good stead for the next few weeks."