Rugby League & the ANZAC Centenary

Rugby league will come together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings across its ANZAC Round, which begins tonight.The NRL will commemorate the ANZAC Centenary with a special ceremony prior to each match.More than 500 rugby league players and officials served in WW1, although incomplete records mean it’s not possible to quantify the exact numbers.The NRL has worked with the Australian Government, ADF, NZDF and RSL to develop a consistent commemorative service that will be featured at all ANZAC Round games in Australia. The Warriors-Gold Coast match will include a slightly different service featuring music from the NZDF band.The pre-match services will pay tribute to the Rugby League players and officials who contributed to World War I.

The players will enter the field side-by-side, accompanied by children, and then form a guard of honour for representatives from the Army, Navy and Air Force to walk through onto the field. This will be an illustration that as a rugby league family – from the grassroots up to the elite level – the game is united in honouring the sacrifice of the ANZACs and past and present servicemen and women.

Once the players have entered the field they will take positions in front of the Australian and New Zealand flags and an official commemorative service will commence which will include: 

  • The Ode
  • The Last Post
  • Moment’s Silence
  • Rouse
  • National Anthems of Australia and New Zealand

The services have been organised by the NRL Clubs, in conjunction with local RSL, ADF and NZDF representatives, to give fans and members a chance to come together and commemorate the sacrifices that have been made by young men and women over the last 100 years.

Each current NRL Club has a connection with WWI – some had former players or administrators who served, others are connected through their current players and staff, while ANZAC heroes who played rugby league for old clubs in current NRL catchment areas have also been honoured. These connections have been brought to life through a series of vignettes produced by the NRL and Australian War Memorial.  

Club Individual  Overview
Brisbane George Duffin  Played with Wests in 1908, moved to Queensland in 1909 and went on to star for  the Maroons in 18 matches as well as representing Australia in 1909 against New  Zealand. Also a cricketer of note, Duffin perished in the 18th Battalion’s attack on  Hill 60 at Gallipoli, and his body was never found.
Canberra Steve Darmody  Joined South Sydney and won selection for the 1911-12 Kangaroo tour. Darmody  was signed by Hull after the tour and starred with them for three seasons before  enlisting in a Transport unit and losing a foot in an accident on the western front.  Undeterred, he re-enlisted and served the rest of the war with the RAF.
Canterbury Alf Bray  Was a Junior League player before the war, and became involved with Canterbury  when they entered the competition. He was their Junior League secretary and  went on to be secretary of the District Club. A Bulldogs Life Member, he passed  away in 1968.
Cronulla Thomas Cadet  Played with Sutherland for several seasons before enlisting in 1915 and being  posted to the 1st Battalion.  Aged 21 when he joined up, he gave his occupation  as painter. Cadet was badly injured at Pozieres in July 1916 but recovered and  survived the remainder of the war before returning to Australia in 1919.
Gold Coast Paddy Bugden  Played with Alstonville, and worked as a barman before enlisting in 1916 with the  31st battalion based in Brisbane. He was awarded the Victoria Cross  posthumously after the battle of Polygon Wood in 1917 for rescuing Australians  who had been captured by the enemy. He did this successfully five times before  being killed in action at his sixth attempt. He is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery.
Manly Joe Murray  Played for NSW and Australia on the 1911-12 Kangaroo tour and was living at  Manly when he enlisted in 1915. He won a Distinguished Conduct Medal while  serving with the 7th Field Company Engineers in May 1917 at Bullecourt and was  a member of the AIF Rugby Union XV at the end of the war.
Melbourne Ted Larkin  A Wallaby in 1903, Larkin switched to the new code in 1908, served as a referee,  and was the game’s first fulltime administrator in 1909. He set rugby league on a  firm footing and oversaw initiatives such as the introduction of the game into  Melbourne. In 1913 he was elected to the NSW parliament but resigned, and left  his wife and two infant children to enlist as a private. He was killed in action at  the landing at Gallipoli on the first Anzac Day in 1915.
New Zealand Warriors Charlie Savory  One of four New Zealanders selected for the 1911-12 Australasian Kangaroo tour,  Savory was also the heavyweight boxing champion of New Zealand when he  enlisted in 1914. He was killed in action at the Second Battle of Krithia at Gallipoli  in 1915.
Newcastle Stan Carpenter  Newcastle’s first captain in 1908, Carpenter represented Australia in 1909. He  was recommended twice for the Victoria Cross for his work as a stretcher bearer,  at Gallipoli during chaos of the landing and again at Pozieres. He was awarded  the Distinguished Conduct Medal and returned to Australia, where he continued  to play into his 40s.
North Qld Archibald Harvey  Bundaberg and Brisbane Valleys player who made three appearances for  Queensland in 1909 and played for Australia against the Maori. He enlisted from  Melbourne, rose to be a Lieutenant and returned to Australia in 1917 after a  gunshot wound to the abdomen. His son John was killed in action during WWII at  Lae, PNG in June 1945.
Parramatta Andrew Hillier  Was a junior player with Parramatta North who enlisted in 1916 and served in  France with the 36th Battalion. He was killed in action at Messines in June 1917  from shell fragments to the stomach, and his battlefield grave was lost, so his  name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Belgium.
Penrith Frederick Maisey  Was a Windsor player who served overseas for three years, initially with the 3rd   Battalion. He rose to be a Lieutenant and was badly wounded at Pozieres. He  served for two more years but died of illness in September 1918, two months  before the end of the war.
South Sydney George Morris  Was a Surry Hills player and a labourer who enlisted as soon as war broke out.  He served with the 3rd Battalion at Gallipoli but was killed in action at Pozieres in  July 1916. His bravery and leadership in battle prior to his death saw him  posthumously awarded the Military Cross.
St George-Illawarra Reg Fusedale  A prominent RU player before he enlisted in 1914, Fusedale switched codes upon  his return and played with St George in their first season in 1921. He then served  as an official with the Dragons for many decades and was instrumental in building  the foundations of one of the game’s most famous clubs.
Sydney Roosters Jack Watkins  The only man to win a premiership and play for Australia both before and after  the First World War, “Bluey” Watkins was a great lock forward renowned for his  speed and cover defence. He was a member of the AIF RU XV at the end of the  war and was still a star player with the Roosters into the 1920s.
Wests Tigers Roy Liston  Played with Annandale, Glebe, Balmain and Wests. He enlisted in 1916 and saw  action in France with the 2nd Field Company Engineers.  Liston won a premiership  with Balmain in 1924 and, after retiring as a player, served as a Wests  administrator and their official timekeeper for many decades.

Words: National Rugby League

Photo: Johnathan Wood