From my experience as both a player and a coach, I can tell you that ANZAC Day games are traditionally one of the bigger events of the year for NRL players.
It’s always a emotional game to be a part of.
The pre-game activity is inspiring, with the choppers and the soldiers, and the intensity on the field always seems a bit higher as a result.
The two matches we have today shape up as classic ANZAC Day encounters.
Both the Roosters and the Dragons are looking solid this year.
The Roosters, under Brian Smith, are one of those teams that are only going to get better as the season goes on.
The complexities of Smithy’s attacking structures can take some getting used to. He does things a little differently.
So Smithy coached sides generally start a bit slower before finding their rhythm.
But once the team clicks, they’ll be very hard to beat.
I like the way the younger guys have come into the side this season and really stood up. There’s a lot of improvement in them as a team, and while they’re currently sitting at 4 wins and 3 losses, this could be the game that kickstarts the rest of their season.
Likewise, the Dragons have had a very promising start, apart from one or two games. Their performance against the Tigers, in particular, was as good as I’ve seen them play in a year or so.
They’ve lost some big-name players in the off-season, and had a few more unavailable due to injury. But aided by the talented youth they’ve brought into the side, they’re playing some very solid footy.
They’ve also changed their tactics a bit under new coach Steve Price. Most noticeable is that Hornby and Soward have swapped sides and there’s been more lateral movement with the ball as a result.
The Dragons are traveling as good as any side in the competition.
In the other match, the Warriors started off with probably the best game I’ve seen this season against the Sea Eagles, but things haven’t been quite as good since.
My sense is that they’ve been a little too lateral with the ball rather than using their big men more up the middle.
But in their win against the Rabbits, it looks like they’ve made some adjustments to what they’re doing and they’ll give Melbourne a tough game today.
The Storm are just a well-oiled machine.
They appear to be moving the ball a bit more at the back this season and getting the ball out to their centres.
But as I’ve pointed out in a previous column, they’ve been able to do that because of the hard yards being won up front by the likes of Ryles and Bromwich.
If they had a weakness last season, it was with getting good field position. This year, that hasn’t been such a problem.
And, as always, the Storm’s defence is very hard to break.
The Warriors have a massive pack and they’re good at grinding out the yards, but it’s hard to bet against the impact that the Storm’s 1, 7 and 9 will have on the match.
Either way, it’ll be a great day of footy. The emotion of the occasion always brings a good crowd. And it’s obviously a very significant day for a lot of Australian families.
Players from all the teams involved will long remember being a part of this ANZAC Day battle.