The Roar
The Roar


Sport's awkward relationship with Anzac Day

Cooper Cronk.. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
24th April, 2018
1575 Reads

The poppies – about 20 of them – line the traditional V of the Sydney Roosters jersey, sitting just above the Steggles branding.

It’s the commemorative jersey the Roosters will wear in their Anzac Day clash with St George Illawarra. And it’s one example of the awkward – and at times downright disrespectful – relationship between Anzac reverence, commercialism and incongruous sporting metaphors.

Get it for only $159.99 from the official online store of the NRL. No sign that any proceeds from the sales will go to a war veterans charity such as Legacy.

“Honour your team and our servicemen and women with this Sydney Roosters 2018 Men’s Commemorative Jersey,” says the item’s description.

The way that the NRL and AFL piggyback Anzac Day is hard to cop at times.

The three fixtures – Roosters against the Dragons, Melbourne-Warriors and Essendon against Collingwood – bring people together and even if just for the minute’s silence, they are forced to reflect on what Anzac Day signifies.

It’s a powerful 60 seconds poignantly captured in the vastness of a packed 100,000-capacity MCG or a full Allianz Stadium (let’s go with Sydney Football Stadium).

That’s one decent upside, although hopefully most Australians and New Zealanders would’ve already taken time before their sporting fix to solemnly contemplate the sacrifices of those that have served their countries. And hopefully it’s a lot longer than a minute and a lot longer than the time absorbing the hype that surrounds the lucrative matches.

[latest_videos_strip category=”rugby-league” name=”League”]


But perhaps the most cringeworthy aspect of the Anzac Day lead-in is the metaphors ridiculously linking sport to war.

The coaches that talk about drawing on the Anzac spirit to inspire their team in battle. The $800,000-a-season marquee player who wants to replicate the teamwork and camaraderie of the Anzacs.

An NRL or AFL match isn’t in the same ballpark as the battlefield. It’s hard to listen to cliches drawing parallels between running out for a game of professional sport – and being rewarded handsomely for it – and war. If only everyone involved in promoting the fixtures would just definitively separate the two.

I’m far from being one not wanting any sport on Anzac Day.

But let’s not think for a second that a front-rower defending his line is ever as brave as one who has fought on the front line. And leave the poppies off the over-priced sponsored club jerseys.