Turkish players and officials hope Sunday’s historic Anzac Day clash against the Australian Defence Force at the SCG will become an annual event and could lead to a match being played at Gallipoli.
Turkey, whose Test team includes Canberra prop Emre Guler, Parramatta rookie Samuel Hughes and Super League stars Aidan Sezer, Yusuf Aydin and Jansin Turgut, will meet the ADF in a curtain-raiser to annual fixture between the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra.
The match will be live-streamed by NRL.com and captain Arda Dalcik said the rugby league community in Turkey would watch with great interest.
"For the Turks to represent our country on Anzac Day in the Gallipoli clash, or Canakkale as it is called in Turkish, means a lot for our heritage and our cultural identity," Dalcik said.
"It is a celebrated day in Turkey also and the passion we are going to be playing with on Sunday, and the history that is behind it, is just going to be awesome."
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Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Turkish team will be drawn from Australian-based players only, while the ADF side will include players from all three branches of the Armed services; Army, Navy and Air Force.
Turkey lost to the Philippines in the final of the trophy section at the 2018 Emerging Nations World Cup and the game is growing, with four clubs established in Istanbul and one in Eskisehir.
There have also been international fixtures involving the Turkey women’s and Under 18s teams.
The TRLA is honoured to be involved ... It is a fitting way to commemorate the servicemen and women from both countriesTurkish Rugby League Association chairman
"The game is growing in Turkey and with a population of about 85 million people it is only going to get bigger and bigger," said Dalcik, who came through the junior ranks at the Roosters.
"We have got a lot of young Turkish boys starting to come through who want to represent the flag and colours so it is getting bigger within our heritage and culture too."
Turkish Rugby League Association chairman, Gurol Yildiz, said his organisation was hopeful that the success of this year’s game will lead to the match becoming an annual Anzac event, with the distinct possibility of it one day being played in Turkey.
"The TRLA is honoured to be involved in this match. It is a fitting way to commemorate the servicemen and women from both countries, especially those who fought together in the Gallipoli campaign during World War One, and which is now so deeply rooted in both nations," he said.
"This fixture is also testimony to the development of rugby league among the Turkish people both at home and through heritage abroad.
"It was only a few years ago that we were virtually unknown. Now we are an affiliate member of International Rugby League, ranked in the top 25 playing nations, and with players competing at all levels of the game in competitions across the world."
"It has been a mammoth task to organise. My thanks go to the ADF, NRL, Sydney Roosters and all our Turkish officials – including our Ambassador and General Consulate."
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ADF captain Connor McCabe, who serves on HMAS Canberra, said it was a great honour for players from the armed forces to play on ANZAC Day.
"It is a huge occasion, not just for the ADF but all ex-serving members who are going to come out and we hope to do the ANZACs proud," McCabe said.
"The game is getting live-streamed so we know a lot of people are going to be watching, in Turkey as well as here.
"With restrictions on the numbers at the ANZAC march in Sydney, I know a lot of current and ex-serving members are coming to the game to get together and enjoy the day."
Be part of the NRL action on Anzac Day as the game does its bit to honour Australia and New Zealand’s military forces. Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets