Greenberg, Leahy deliver speeches at Ted Larkin Dinner

Greenberg, Leahy deliver speeches at Ted Larkin Dinner

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg spoke at the annual Ted Larkin Oration Dinner on Monday night. Below is his speech in its in entirety.

Also speaking was Peter Leahy, who served 37 years in the Australian Army. His speech is printed below.

Todd Greenberg

Good evening ladies and gentleman, and welcome to an evening of remembrance.

Can I begin by acknowledging the people on whose lands we meet tonight – the Gadigal and Bidjigal People of the Eora nation and their elders past and present.

As always and approaching another ANZAC Day, we have some people in the room that I'd like to acknowledge:

• Lieutenant General Peter Leahy Rtd, Chair of Invictus Games Sydney
• John Sullivan AO
• Two women who share an enduring link this week – current serving members of the defence forces and also current Jillaroos players, Meg Ward and Talisha Quinn
• Our many friends from the Australian Defence Force
• RSL NSW President James Brown
• Invictus Games CEO Patrick Kidd
• Foxtel CEO Patrick Delaney
• Telstra COO Robyn Denholm and Media and Marketing Executive Joe Pollard
• Current and former Members of Parliament
• NSWRL CEO David Trodden
• Australian Rugby League Commissioners and executives

Thank you all for joining us at the fourth annual Ted Larkin Oration Dinner – one of the most unique and special nights on our calendar.

This is a real highlight for the game of Rugby League, as we look to commemorate ANZAC Day and capture the essence of remembrance.

It's an intimate night when we can share some incredible stories which have linked both our sport and military service in the past.

Ted Larkin as we know is an incredible, enduring example.

Ted was involved in the formation of rugby league in 1908 and by 1909 was appointed as the first full-time secretary of the NSWRL, serving in that role until 1913.

But he was far more than that. He was a Member of Parliament and earmarked as a future Premier - a remarkable and successful man in many facets of his life.

But like many young men, he chose to leave his life in Australia behind, embark on a journey to serve his country on foreign soil.

He left Australia in October 1914, destined for Egypt first and ultimately Gallipoli.

Sergeant Ted Larkin landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 . . . and within hours he was tragically killed by Turkish machine guns as he led his men towards what is now known as 'Lone Pine'.

It is always hoped that through the Ted Larkin Oration, we are able to reflect on some of the values shared by both our sport and by the defence forces.

Our sport is inclusive.

Our sport is united.

Our sport is disciplined.

We never aim to compare war with the feats on the football field, but those beliefs that we have can certainly be shared between Rugby League and the defence forces.

At this time of year, our sport is also a powerful tool to bring the sacrifices of so many to the fore, and to appropriately remember and recognise those sacrifices.

Another example will be the Invictus Games, which will highlight the healing powers of sport in the most inspirational of circumstances.

It is certainly a privilege of ours that we are able to use the reach of the NRL's ANZAC Round to further highlight these stories and the incredible feats and sacrifices which have been carried out on the battlefield, and which will be highlighted on the sporting field in October this year.

Peter Leahy AC is the Chairman of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018, and I'm very honoured to say will be delivering this evening's Ted Larkin Oration.

Peter served in the Australian Army for 37 years, concluding his career with the rank of Lieutenant General after a six-year appointment as the Chief of Army.

Since leaving the Army Peter has joined the University of Canberra as a Professor and the foundation Director of the National Security Institute.

He truly captures the essence of what this evening should be about – highlighting sport's ability to remember and recognise incredible achievements and sacrifices.

Thank you Peter for joining us and agreeing to deliver this year's Oration. It is a privilege to be able to hear, share and be inspired by your story and the stories which will be celebrated through the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

We will also hear from a dear friend of the game, John Sullivan AO, who shared his reflections on the leadership values that transcend the defence force and rugby league with our staff last year.

His words were so moving that I said at the time I would love him to join us for next year's Ted Larkin oration. I'm very thankful that he has accepted the invitation.

John served the Australian Army in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. He has served at all three tiers of Government, as Mayor of Narrandera, Federal Member for Riverina and State Member for Sturt.

And he is also an accomplished sportsman – he was the Australian Army's top middle-weight boxer, a first grade rugby player and cricketer. He held the record for throwing a cricket ball 102 yards – a record that stood for two decades.

As a keen cricketer I was hoping to see his strong arm, but John tells me his sporting prowess today is confined to cheering on the Narrandera Lizards rugby league team these days.

Thank you John for again coming to Rugby League Central to share your thoughts on the values that Ted Larkin lived and breathed as a great community servant, sportsman and military leader.

With that in mind ladies and gentlemen, Rugby League will continue to honour and reflect on the sacrifices that thousands of service men and women have given to protecting Australia, New Zealand and countries around the world.

We will pause during Round Eight – ANZAC Round – beginning on Wednesday – ANZAC Day - and when we hear the words "We will remember them", I can tell you, we will remember them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you again for joining us tonight and we hope that you enjoy this evening.

Peter Leahy

Salutations;
Chairman and Commissioners of the ARL Commission
Peter Beattie
CEO and Executives of the National Rugby League
Todd Greenberg
Chairman, Trustees and Executive of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust
Tony Shepherd
Members of the Australian Defence Force
Fleet Commander Jonathon Mead, Ken Quinn, Ben James, Susan Coyle

On occasions like this when we, in Australia, gather in such splendour I like to acknowledge that tonight across the globe many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women are doing it tough.

Not for them the comforts, good food, beer and wine we are enjoying tonight.

Many of them are very likely in mortal danger, they are probably wet and cold or hot and sweaty and certainly missing their loved ones.

I think we should acknowledge their service and commitment to Australia and their sense of purpose in keeping us safe.

This week in the lead up to ANZAC Day it is right that we remember our service men and women who have served the Nation for more than a Century.

We do not celebrate war but commemorate their efforts and service to Australia.

We honour those that have fallen in the service of Australia.

We also honour the men, women and children who have been impacted by service, and remember the incredible people who have served and still serve in our nation's defence forces.

As you have so properly acknowledged by establishing this dinner thinking of Ted Larkin, one of the greats of Rugby League, allows us to ponder the nature of service, of courage, of endurance, of mateship and of sacrifice.

As a sportsman, policeman, Justice of the Peace, MLA and a man involved with hospitals Ted was a man of his community.

Ted knew his duty, he knew what was right.

As Peter FitzSimons said in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2014.

Within a fortnight of the outbreak of the war, Larkin and his older brother Martin had joined up with the 1st Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.

It was his duty, he said, to set an example to other sportspeople to do the right thing and fight for the country.

He refused a commission to be an officer, not feeling himself qualified, and wanting to stay close to the men.

We all know that Sergeant Ted Larkin died on Pine Ridge at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915.

His name is on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial where he is joined by 102,824 other Australians who have died in the service of our Nation.

We are right to remember Ted as it helps us understand how we can be better Australians.

Better Australian on the sporting field, better Australians on battlefields but most importantly just better Australians.

Tonight, if we are prepared to listen Ted is shouting at us.

He shouts across the years that leadership, adherence to values, commitment, teamwork, courage, initiative and perseverance will make us better Australians.

I think there is a lot we can learn today as a broader Australian community from the performance of those very many Australians who were and are proud to call themselves "Diggers".

In many ways the story of the Army is a story of heroes and larrikins.

It is above all a story of leadership.

There is no doubt that Ted Larkin was a leader. He went first, he showed the way and he put his community above himself.

It's been one of the great privileges of my life to meet our ANZACs across many generations.

I have travelled first - hand with the veterans of WW1, WW2 on the battlefields of their youth.

I grew up in the Army with the veterans of Korea and Vietnam and I am enormously proud of what the Australian Defence Force has done on our modern-day battlefields of Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

I can assure you the spirit of ANZAC is alive and well today.

My first experience with our veterans was in September 1993. This was the 75th anniversary of the battles of the Western Front and I accompanied 14 old diggers over 10 days across France.

They were all in their 90s but age had little bearing on them.

They were on the piss from the moment they got to Paris.

My first introduction to them was on entering the Hilton Hotel in Paris. It was very late in the evening, they had just arrived and three of them were attempting to escape the hotel.

Standing in their way was the tour Doctor, who also happened to be the Prime Minister's doctor. Great name for a doctor, Graham Killer.

They were insisting loudly that they were off to the Folle Berges.

They announced that the last time they were in Paris it was 2/6- to get in and they thought it was really good value.

Get out of the bloody way they said to the Doctor.

Graham lost, the diggers departed for the Folles Berges and the tone of the tour was set.

We travelled extensively across France and gathered at battlefields and cemeteries as each veteran remembered the battles they were involved in.

It was sad to watch them remember their fallen mates, as dignitaries from France and Australia gathered, bands played, bugles were sounded, bagpipes were strangled and the flags, banners and guidons of their fighting days flew in the crisp French air.

Etched deep in my memory is walking with one old digger after the final ceremony at the crucial battlefield of Mont St Quentin.

This was a battle on 18 September 1918 that helped seal the defeat of Germany.

After the ceremony he wanted to walk down from the hill towards the town of Perrone. I accompanied him and steadied him as the ground was rough.

We were surrounded by the Press who fell off after a while. He strode on over the rough ground, only to pause when Graham Killer approached and slipped something into his coat pocket.

We went on towards the bottom of the hill where he stopped and said, ''This is where Bill died.'' Bill was his section mate. He explained that Bill was hit and as he stopped to take the machine gun from him he said to the mortally wounded soldier that he would have a beer with him one day.

He then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the can of Fosters that Graham had given him. He pulled the top off the can and sculled it.

When I'm 95 I want to be just like him.

Robert Coombes won a Military Medal, for his heroic actions with that machine gun, on that day in 1918.

Through the official military records, we have come to know well the names of the great battles of the First World War - Gallipoli, Pozieres, Hamel, Bullecourt, Mont St Quentin in 1918.

Yes, they were great battles and worthy of historic note.

But to the diggers of the first AIF and maybe Ted, the battle they often spoke of and were very proud of was the battle of the Wassa just outside Cairo on 2 April 1915.

The Wassa was the brothel town of Cairo and so the story goes the Madams in the town had just increased the prices. The lads were mightily upset about this imposition and in an Australian way decided to protest.

Well the protest developed somewhat and resulted in the brothel town being burned down. Of course, a great time was had by all.

The evening's entertainment was further brightened by the fact that the British Military Police came out to play and received a thorough thrashing from the Australians.

Now there were no campaign medals issued for this battle and there is little record in the official history written by C.E.W. Bean but the Battle of the Wassa was spoken of with great reverence by the surviving veterans of World War 1.

I'm not sure what the PC lot would make of this battle today, nor do I offer it as some sort of prematch training for NRL teams.

We rightly mourn and honour those who died in the service of the Nation.

We should also remember and support those who were injured both physically and psychologically in service.

This is why I am proud to be associated with the Invictus Games to be held in late October this year here in Sydney.

I tried to think of some clever words to say about Invictus but I am just going to defer to Prince Harry, a wonderful young man who is showing real leadership. He is a team player and has not forgotten his teammates.

This is what His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales has to say about Invictus.

''Invictus is about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries confronted hardship and refused to be defined by their injuries.

Invictus is about families and friends who faced the shock of learning their loved ones had been injured or fallen ill - and then rallied to support them on their journey of recovery.

And above all Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women can offer.

That's why we created Invictus. Not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism and service in their own lives.

At the moment, it seems fashionable to declare your Republican tendencies. Well with an Irish name like Leahy I guess I lean a bit towards the Republican side of things.

But so long as this Prince of The Realm does great things for our veterans I'm sticking tight to him.

Like Prince Charles said of him at a dinner in Sydney during his previous visit, ''He's a good egg.''

I agree and I'm proud to be associated with the Invictus Games to be held here in Sydney from 20 to 27 October.

Prince Harry brings veterans together and he brings communities together.

We are already seeing the impact of these Games and have brought together a great team of partners from Government, business, and the not for profit sector who are making a difference to help drive the legacy of these Games around a common purpose; the rehabilitative benefit of sport, the celebration of the spirit of those involved and the desire to shift perceptions in our community about those that serve.

In closing I would like to recognise the support of so many individual and organisations who have got us to this point and in particular I want to acknowledge our Founding Partners, some of whom are in the room this evening;

NSW State Govt, and Anthony Ball from Clubs NSW. I would like to acknowledge James Brown from RSL NSW who have recently joined the team.

These are the partners that represent grass roots Australia that will embrace these games and the 500 competitors from 18 nations and their families.

We now find ourselves with days to go, we are on the home stretch.

Ladies and Gentlemen it's Game on Down Under.