Roosters set up camp with war veteran for Anzac Day clash
The Roosters will go into camp in their own backyard with Jamie Tanner, a retired serviceman who has taken fire from Afghanistan to Iraq, in preparation for their traditional Anzac Day showdown with the Dragons.
Trent Robinson's side hasn't left Sydney across the first two months of the Telstra Premiership, and so their annual Anzac eve stay in Coogee doubles as their first since a pre-season boot camp in Queenstown.
That February trip across the Tasman saw the Roosters run through gruelling commando drills and army games.
But Tanner will address the team on the real deal at dinner on Tuesday, drawing on his 11 years as an infantry soldier and tours of duty to East Timor, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Medically discharged from the forces in 2011, Tanner has battled both physical injuries and debilitating bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder since.
He is also an Invictus athlete, and the latest in a line of servicemen and women brought into the Roosters fold to ensure they truly understand the gravity of Anzac Day.
"It gets you captivated and listening that's for sure," captain Boyd Cordner said of the Roosters' annual Anzac Day speakers.
"The best thing is the questions that we get to ask and some of the stories are truly unbelievable and heroic.
"You're sitting there and just trying to imagine yourself in those situations and it's just so hard.
"You have new found respect for people that go through that so it definitely does help with the emotion of the day."
That emotion is not lost on anyone involved at either club.
Cooper Cronk, having been involved in Melbourne's own traditional Anzac clash with the Warriors for years, picks out a serviceman or woman from the crowd in the moments before kick-off to keep in mind.
Robinson accompanies his side onto the paddock for the Last Post, sporting genuine goosebumps before the expected 40,000-plus crowd at Allianz Stadium.
"For me it's the biggest day of the round calendar in rugby league," Robinson said.
"And for us to get to experience that and everything that goes around it.
"The overriding memory (of Anzac Day games) is the event. The people that talk about it leading up to it. The parade.
"We've had jets going over, parachutists going in. The last post and minute's silence. That's why I say it's an honour for us. They're the huge memories and that's how we celebrate Anzac Day."
Amongst it all, the Roosters remind themselves there is still two competition points on the line, vital ones at that given their stop-start season to date.
Key forward trio Jake Friend (concussion), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (knee) and Dylan Napa (shoulder) are all expected to be on deck, with Cordner well aware knocking off the ladder-leader Dragons could kickstart a campaign heavy with expectation.
"It's a big stage for us and a really important game for us to cement our spot in the top eight," Cordner said.
"It's been our Achilles heel this year - our inconsistency. When we've been winning games and we've been on we've been really good and when we haven't we've been bad."