‘There’s no excuse for lack of effort’: What it means to play on Anzac Day
The sense of the occasion, the hype of the match, the deafening roar of a stadium at capacity.
Anzac Day clashes in the AFL and the NRL carry significantly more weight than a typical home and away match.
The solemnity of the day is not lost on the players who are lucky enough to take to the field on this day of dignified remembrance.
Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler’s extraordinary Rugby League career is stacked with highlights and achievements, but playing for the Roosters in the first NRL Anzac Day clash against the Dragons ranks towards the top.
As a player, a coach, and a commentator, the NSW Origin coach is yet to miss an Anzac Day clash.
“It’s a great week to learn a bit of history, over the years some of the great soldiers including a few VC medalists come in and talk to the players and give some of the realities of what goes on over there,” Freddy tells Levy and Riddell.
“The standard is always high because there’s no excuse for lack of effort, you’ve just been told about all these wonderful things these people did to protect our country and what we believe in, so a sore shoulder of a lack of effort doesn’t cut it.”
— NRL (@NRL) April 24, 2019
Macquarie Sports Radio Breakfast co-host Mark ‘Piggy’ Riddell says he feels privileged to have played in a number of Anzac Day clashes during his time with the Dragons and the Roosters.
“It’s a special day not only in every Australian’s calendar but also in the Rugby League calendar as well,” Piggy said.
“Everyone in Rugby League wants to play on this day and in this game, it’s a special occasion and I feel privileged that I got the opportunity on numerous occasions to play in the game,
“It’s one of those one’s you wish you could be involved in again.”
Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll racked up achievements over his long rugby league career, including playing 202 games with four clubs, seven State of Origin appearances for NSW and 12 test caps for his country.
Despite this, Spud says it’s unfortunate that an Anzac Day clash wasn’t “a box I could tick,”
“I’m always jealous on this day not to have been able to play on this magical day,” Spud said.
“The emotion, the crowd, it gives you tingles just talking about it.”
For players and fans alike, the Anzac Day clash in the AFL is colossal and on a scale surpassed only by the Grand Final.
Collingwood great Tony Shaw retired at the end of the 1994 season, a year before the traditional Anzac Day match between the Bombers and the Magpies was established, but in the inaugural clash he was able to run onto the field in a different capacity.
“In 1995 in the first Anzac Day match, I was the runner for Collingwood, I was the little fat bloke running around with the green fluro on,” Shaw tells Piggy and Levy.
“I was about 20 metres behind Nathan Buckley when he came out of the centre circle and broke through to the back of the square,
“He could’ve probably kicked a goal but he then tried to pass it to Sav Rocca, it went over his head and that was it – it was a draw,
“To see what happened in the aftermath and with the players was incredible, and that’s what set it up, having a draw in that first one.”
While Shaw never played in an Anzac Day match, he was lucky enough to coach the Magpies in four of them.
“Let me tell you, I didn’t have a great coaching career but it was a joy to have won three out of the four, and to have that over Kevin Sheedy, I tell him every time I see him.”