Anzac Day is one of the most sacrosanct days on the calendar and I’d respectfully suggest for a lot of secular Australians it has overtaken religious holidays like Easter and Christmas as the most sacred and respected days of the year.
One of the things that has kept Anzac Day special is that it has been heavily protected.
Most of its rituals and commemorations are unique and only performed on the day itself.
Around a decade ago its sanctity was threatened as corporate Australia tried to get in on the act and use Anzac Day and its associated themes as marketing material.
Woolworths and VB were heavily criticised for their respective ‘Fresh in our memories’ and ‘Raise a glass’ campaigns. To avoid what was becoming known as Brandzac Day, rules around the use of Anzac Day and its themes were rigorously enforced.
Which brings us to the NRL.
Long-term fans will recall some of the less tasteful cross promotion attempts over the years comparing rugby league to war and its players to soldiers being in the trenches, making sacrifices and shedding blood for one another. We all knew that didn’t sit right and thankfully those types of comparisons aren’t directly made any more.
The NRL is still going hard at its Anzac Day promotion though. Most clubs release an Anzac themed jersey. If we give them the benefit of the doubt it’s a way of paying respect to personnel who’ve served and sacrificed.
Through another lens is it any less commercialisation than the Woolworths or VB campaigns? What about the Wests Tigers’ and Canberra Raiders’ shambolic (lack of) efforts where their marketing departments couldn’t even be bothered finding out if the selected images for their commemorative jerseys were of Australian troops? Doesn’t seem quite so respectful now.
As mentioned above, part of what keeps Anzac Day sacred is its traditions and rituals are largely limited to the day itself. We don’t hold dawn services or Anzac marches on other days to increase participation.
Even two-up is illegal outside of Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and Victory in the Pacific Day.
While the Ode of Remembrance is read nightly at RSL clubs around the country, I can’t remember hearing the Last Post outside Anzac Day … except at the footy.
The Last Post is one of the most emotive pieces of music ever written. I could think of nothing more stirring than hearing it before a game.
However, by Tuesday afternoon I almost had Last Post fatigue – a term I learned on the internet over the weekend, but one that immediately resonated.
Before every game last weekend, there was a reading of the Ode of Remembrance, playing of the Last Post, a minute silence and renditions of the New Zealand and Australian national anthems. That’s all fine, except the South Sydney versus Penrith game was held on Thursday, 20th of April some five days before Anzac Day. Then repeated daily. I don’t think that’s what Anzac Day is about.
While the more odious comparisons between sport and war have been removed, the Fox Sports commentators must have mentioned Anzac Day 50 times in the Roosters vs Dragons commentary.
To the point where my wife walking past and hearing Andrew Voss talk about the display of Anzac spirit AGAIN, facetiously said “oh, is it Anzac Day today? I wouldn’t have known”.
Now maybe I’m an old man shouting at a cloud here, but I feel like the NRL has hit a tipping point.
The Anzac Day games have become a great tradition and everything done on the day is honest and respectful. However, outside that we’re in danger of moving from respectful remembrance to crass commercialisation.
Let’s keep the Anzac Day rugby league traditions alive, but pull back a little from everything outside the day itself. That seems the best way to maintain respect for the sanctity of Anzac Day.