LEST WE FORGET

In October 2010, Hoffy and I were fortunate enough to spend a week in Paris. We ate baguettes under the Eiffel Tower, we devoured crepes outside Notre Dame and we munched on cheese and crackers at the Moulin Rouge.

And two things occurred to me then (as they do again now):

(a)     Why is it always about food with me?

(b)     This is all a bit girly. Perhaps I should ask Hoff if he has any requests for Paris sight-seeing…

I ignored point (a) and kept right on eating, but in response to point (b), I relinquished my Chief Holiday Officer title momentarily and opened the floor to suggestions.

And this is how Ryan and I ended up spending a day touring Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux and Pozieres, immersing ourselves an area of France that is fundamental to Australian military history.

I should note at this point that Hoffy is a bit of a history buff. He is particularly interested in the conflicts of WWI and WWII and has a depth of knowledge that is quite remarkable. So it was no surprise to me that he made this particular suggestion.

And as this was very much Hoffy’s suggestion, in taking the tour I felt that I was doing my duty as a wife and travel companion, but not necessarily as an Australian. Which I later realised was much more to the point.

Without wishing to sound melodramatic, that day changed my whole perception of our history. I had no idea so many Australian lives were lost in that region during WWI. I had no idea our soldiers were so highly regarded as a result of our efforts. I had no idea that many of the people in the area still value the ANZAC contribution today as if it were yesterday.

Now ANZAC Day takes on an entirely new meaning for me. I have seen the remnants of the trenches of WWI, I have seen the pristine monuments marking this turbulent time, and I have seen the original grave of the Unknown Soldier who now rests in Canberra.

And today Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors have the privilege of competing in a fixture that honours the men and women of our ANZAC history. It is just one of the many occasions that mark this day in the lives of Australians and New Zealanders each year, and it means many different things to different people.

For Matt Duffie honour is three-fold. Aside from the prestige of the ANZAC fixture, Duffie made his debut during this very round two years ago and is honoured that his debut coincided with this occasion. What’s more, Duffie was an avid Warriors fan growing up and looks forward to this round every year, and particularly to the chance to come up against Manu Vatuvei, who he considers the benchmark for wingers across the competition.

Kevin Proctor also eagerly anticipates this game each season, and cites another important part of this round – the opportunity to compete for the Michael Moore trophy, which honours the memory of the Melbourne Storm football manager who tragically passed away in 2000. Kevin believes that the reminder of the commitment Michael made to the club, along with the playing of the Last Post prior to the game, both work to ensure that the atmosphere will be charged, providing ample motivation for an exciting and hard-fought game.

Jason Ryles is no stranger to the ANZAC Day fixture, having played for both the Dragons and the Roosters in the corresponding game north of the border. That particular game attracts around 30,000-40,000 fans and according to Jason, creates an atmosphere similar to that of a semi-final. This year Jason looks forward to not only to participating in the Storm/Warriors fixture, but to being in the vicinity of the AFL equivalent for the very first time, and seeing how things are done south of the border.

And of course Hoffy is anticipating this game as much as anyone. He is quick to point out that the teams’ efforts today are a spit in the ocean compared to the efforts of our ANZACs back in the day, but he is glad that the two clubs have the opportunity and honour of doing their bit to mark the occasion. During the Last Post he will be thankful that today he gets to go out and play footy, and think of the ANZACs, many of whom were around his age, and instead spent their time at war. He is acutely aware that he is playing footy on a day that means so much to so many people, and looks forward to honouring these people with an appropriate performance.

As fans we can only ask that the game is befitting of the occasion, and I personally look forward to seeing a sea of purple tonight at AAMI Park to help continue this special ANZAC tradition.

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