The off-field poor behaviour of some NRL players has been well highlighted in recent times, but the genuine effort and intensity shown in the Anzac Day round is a reminder of their ability to elevate themselves when part of a great event.
The Anzac Day respect the NRL demonstrates for the people who have served Australia and New Zealand is truly impressive, and the positive mentality generated by the commemorations is contagious.
We’ve seen the fans also being super-responsive to the events proceeding games and the media’s highlighting of past players’ military service.
The players who took the field at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Melbourne’s AAMI Park on Thursday clearly took their role seriously
The ruthlessness shown by the Roosters in the first half was a clear indicator that they had build a theme around representing our service people with honour.
James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell are the ultimate strike weapons and they asked so many tough questions of the Dragons you could literally see the energy being sapped out of them.
The St George players’ resilient response in the second half showed that they too had come with fight and intent. Matt Dufty’s try got the near-40,000 crowd out of their seats and applauding in pure amazement at what they had just witnessed.
Paul Vaughan punched a hole clean through the middle of one of the toughest defensive teams in NRL history. His stumble and fall was just short of creating an unbelievable try summed up the Dragons – close, but not quite close enough.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho drove the final nail into the coffin in the 77th minute with some great athleticism and footwork from a big man diving over adjacent the sticks to get the Roosters home 20-10.
The point I want to make here isn’t about the description of play or who executed the superior tactics, but the attitude on display.
Pride has become very much a part of the Anzac Day experience.
The game in Melbourne also did not lack true grit.
An undermanned Warriors team played 80 minutes of ferocious and relentless football. They had players playing out of position, having to stay out on the field for many more minutes than normal.
The amazing debut from 22-year-old Patrick Herbert also summed up the Warriors effort. A 17-tackle game in a 13-12 loss is huge.
The stoic nature of the Storm was questioned repeatedly, with the game-breaker finally coming off the boot of Brodie Croft with a 77th minute drop goal.
There is no comparison to the courage and selflessness of those who served our country overseas in war, but it is worth noting that the players clearly want to ensure the big occasion matches on Anzac Day uplift and inspire.
As the son of a soldier who served in World War Two, I certainly feel that my own father’s spirit was well and truly acknowledged by the Anzac Day games.
Lest We Forget.
Former St George player, Matthew Elliott has coached NRL teams Canberra, Penrith and the New Zealand Warriors