Sport AFL Anzac Day: Honour, sacrifice and a bouncing red ball
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Anzac Day: Honour, sacrifice and a bouncing red ball

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At 2:40pm on Friday, two generals will survey the field as their troops go into battle. Both are veterans of campaigns past, and both know how much is at stake.

It was Bill Shankly who stated, “Football’s not a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that,” and never has this been more literally true than on Anzac Day, when two proud battalions fight for the honour of their fallen ancestors.

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David Zaharakis’ heroism was recognised in the last winter campaign. Photo: Getty

Shankly was a WWII veteran, so he knew what he was talking about. He might have been bewildered by the big sticks and the oval ball, but I think he would have loved the Anzac Day clash all the same.

Collingwood’s leader, the usurper Buckley, has been plagued by mutinous whispers from within his own ranks.

Collingwood and Essendon are proud clubs in difficult times. Where once they met as superpowers fighting for hegemony, today their statuses are in flux, neither as feeble as Belgium nor as powerful as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Collingwood were riven by internal strife, but they gather strength with each new campaign; Essendon too are recovering from civil strife, but their fragile alliance was left reeling after last week’s ambush at the hands of St Kilda. Still, they endure. What they fight for is unclear, but fight is what they must do – it is what they have always done.

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Decorated veteran: James Hird. Photo: Getty

Collingwood’s leader, the usurper Buckley, has been plagued by mutinous whispers from within his own ranks. But with Dale Thomas and Heath Shaw having defected, and Ben Johnson and Alan Didak consigned to the gulag, Buckley once again commands the loyalty of his troops.

In this strange interregnum, they look to ‘Bomber’ Thompson, a great leader wearied by the years, but willing to answer the call of duty once again.

Meanwhile, Essendon is a club besieged. Their rightful leader waits in exile, not in St Helena but in Toorak (or Singapore or France), and their cavalry seems to be having a hard time telling the difference between front and back. In this strange interregnum, they look to ‘Bomber’ Thompson, a great leader wearied by the years, but willing to answer the call of duty once again.

Will his troops heed the call? All we can be certain of is that blood will be spilt. The nation’s finest will put their bodies on the line, and they will carry the spirits of their fallen ancestors as they fight for the ultimate prize: four premiership points.

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