Credit: Melbourne Storm / Twitter
The NZ Warriors and Melbourne Storm will meet for their annual Anzac Day clash this Sunday night fully aware of the special occasion.
"All of our guys, they obviously see it as a big day, Anzac Day. They see it as an honour to play on Anzac Day," Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy told media Saturday.
Sunday night's game is the 11th time the two clubs have played their now traditional Anzac Day match and the first time in two years after last year's game was canned due to the pandemic.
"We’ve been going 11 or 12 years now so it’s a game I sort of really look forward to. I wished it was around when I was playing. I’d love to play on Anzac Day," said Bellamy.
"It's one of the games where you can sit back and reflect and think about what everyone went through in order for us to be able to do what we do today. I get to represent my country and my club on this special day."— Melbourne Storm 🏆 (@storm) April 25, 2021
Jesse on Anzac Day. pic.twitter.com/N1ziRI4v8M
Melbourne Storm co-captain and Kiwis and NZ Māori All-Stars player Jesse Bromwich said he is immensely grateful to be able to take the field on such an important day.
"I just feel a sense of gratitude to be able to play on such a special day, to be able to represent my country, my club and remembering the guys who went and did some really tough things."
Warriors coach Nathan Brown, whose father is a Vietnam War veteran, acknowledged the significance of the day, which he said had become a big day for sport.
"I don't think there's any family that hasn't been touched in some way by the war."
Warriors forward Jazz Tevaga said it is a game he likes to get pumped up for.
"It's a big occasion, it's one of those games where it almost feels like semi-final footie, like grand final kind of feeling.
"It touches me because of my connections to those services through my father and a couple of my family members, so it really hits home.
"When we get out there, they put on a ceremony and there's a lot of adrenalin pumping through you. You just want to go out there and play for those loved ones."
He said he will be keeping his father in mind when he plays the Anzac game.
"I'm proud of my dad, I look up to him. I know this is a special week for him and his boys. So I want to try and put one on for him."
Former Warriors captain and current Storm football operations manager Ryan Hoffman, who has played in the Anzac Day match for both clubs, told nrl.com the players understand the importance of the occasion.
"Rightly or wrongly, we think of this as the true Anzac Day game, representative of both Australia and New Zealand but the players all know that the game is second.
"Having a lunch during the week and hearing from a soldier or war vet about how they feel on this day, the game pales into comparison with the respect for the occasion."
Kick-off at AAMI Park, Melbourne is at 8.15pm Sunday (NZ time).