Game plans are set to take a backseat to history lessons for Victor Radley and his Sydney Roosters team-mates ahead of Monday’s ANZAC Day clash with St George Illawarra at the SCG.
Radley, who has played in the annual clash since 2018, described the match as a special occasion and described the ANZAC Day rivalry with the Dragons, which is now in its 20th year, as different to any other in the NRL.
While it would usually be considered disrespectful not to focus on the opposition, Radley said ANZAC Day was one match where the opposite applies.
“This is entirely different,” Radley said. “This is ANZAC Day.
“It is not about us. It is not about the Dragons. It is not about a rivalry. The day is bigger than us or who has got the biggest ego and if we are going to smash them.
“Both teams are going to turn up for this game and you want to do everyone proud. It is such a small thing, but you want to show respect by playing tough and playing hard.
Manu: You think about those memories on ANZAC Day
“That is all I think about this week. That is one way I think I can really respect that day - by playing as hard and as tough as I possibly can.
“That is my mindset and I know a lot of the guys in the team think the same way.”
Roosters coach Trent Robinson hasn’t yet told his players what he has in store for them before kick-off, but they are anticipating learning more about the history of the game and club’s association with military service.
In recent seasons, Roosters players have been asked to research a family member or soldier from their home-town who had experienced war and learned about the history of the Bondi Blue jersey the club wore in 1945.
“I love the story behind the wartime jersey – the Bondi Blue - and the rationing of dye, and why in 1945 they wore jerseys this colour,” Radley said.
“I dare say before this game we will be learning more about the war, about the ANZACS and about this area. It is always really interesting, and something I like to learn about.”
Star centre Joey Manu said Robinson had previously organised for someone with a military background to speak to the team, while players had also shared stories about their family’s involvement with war.
Manu’s uncle, Matthew, served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and later helped establish a Service Academy at Tokoroa High School to deliver a military-focused program for students, including the Kiwi international.
Dragons v Roosters
“We enjoyed it and it is still going now,” Manu said. “All my mates were in it and my uncle was the teacher. He was in the air force for about 20 years. We used to do camps and experience some of the stuff they used to do.
“There are a few Service Academies around New Zealand at different schools and they meet up for a big camp with the other schools.
“Listening to The Last Post on ANZAC Day, you just remember those memories from school. As a kid I’d go to the dawn parade with my family so there are a lot of good memories.
“ANZAC Day is always a special day and it is probably the best game of the regular season. There is usually a big crowd and it is a big occasion, so I look forward to it every year. It is always special to play on ANZAC Day.”