Trent Robinson and the Roosters at Anzac Day

Roosters coach Trent Robinson could sing the Australian and New Zealand anthems this Anzac Day in French if he wanted to.

Certainly, the April 25 memorials primarily centre on the Gallipoli campaign, but many of those soldiers ended up being sent to the Somme in northern France as the Germans intensified their push across Europe.

France copped a beating but to this day they remember what the Australians and New Zealanders did to keep them free.

Robinson was born in Sydney but France is now inextricably entwined in his life. He learnt the language from his two years playing for Les Catalans.

His wife Sandra is French and the pair are raising three bilingual children – Noah, Finn and Billie.

"Our culture is passed through our language," Robinson said.

"So you speak a native tongue to your kids because you can tell them about home, but you want them to feel it as well. Language is a major part of that."

But his love, respect, connection with France are not the reasons he took the Roosters NRL side to northern France in February.

They visited the Villers-Bretonneux village and memorial, they filed past graves, read the names of Aussie and Kiwi teenage soldiers on headstones, stood on battlegrounds, spoke to locals.

The Roosters were on their way to central England to play the Wigan Warriors in the 2019 World Club Challenge. But this was no motivational 'whip 'em up to play' tour.

Anzac Day ceremony at annual Roosters-Dragons match
Anzac Day ceremony at annual Roosters-Dragons match ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

It also had nothing to do with giving the players additional background ahead of their annual Anzac Day match against the Dragons.

"It had nothing to do with rugby league. It had everything to do with broadening our understanding of ourselves, and our nations. The events there helped shape our nations and our future," Robinson said.  

"People may not realise that there's a really strong bond between the French and Australians from that period. There is a love of Australians and New Zealanders when they go to France.

"Sometimes the French don't know all of the background themselves. But the stories have just permeated throughout the generations that these are good people, and they're on our side.

"For me I hadn't been to the Somme before. I'd been to a lot of other areas in France and heard all the stories but this was my first time there."

The Mayor of Pozieres, off his own bat, came out to meet the Roosters players after hearing they were in his town. The Australians were crucial in saving Pozieres in 1916 although the battle was one of the Somme's deadliest.

"It wasn't organised. He just came to tell us how much it all meant. He came to say 'thank you' basically and that we were always welcome there."   

Dragons coach Paul McGregor and players at Anzac Day match
Dragons coach Paul McGregor and players at Anzac Day match ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

No doubt some of those memories will be close to the surface of Roosters players heading to the SCG on Thursday to face the Dragons. It is Robinson's eighth Anzac match but the first he's coached away from Allianz Stadium.

Considering the different topography of both grounds, will some of the mood and emotions be lost in the larger precinct of a cricket ground.

The Roosters-Dragons game became an April 25 tradition, in honour of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, in 2002. All 17 games have been played at Allianz – until this week.

"I can't wait to see the Anzac Day match played on the SCG," Robinson said.

"The tradition and the players that have been on that ground have even more significance to Anzac Day. That ground 'lived' through the two World Wars.

"For me there's no more traditional rugby league ground in Australia than the SCG.

"It is rugby league so to play the Anzac Day match on the SCG is the ultimate prize for us and the Dragons."

Match: Roosters v Dragons

Round 7 -

Full Time
Roosters

Home Team

Roosters

Scored 20 points
Dragons

Away Team

Dragons

Scored 10 points

Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS