ANZAC and Footy – A Tradition Across the Land

Apr 22, 2023

The ANZAC tradition is one that is cemented in the Australian psyche and it is a day to remember, reflect and join with your comrades, friends and family and think of those that fought and didn’t come home and to consider those that did return, but not often to a normal life…

It is a day that in recent years has seen crowd numbers grow at all remembrance gatherings at dawn all over the country, in towns and centres big and small.

The Covid years put some restrictions on numbers that could attend, but often these limits were put to one side when people turned up to show their respect.

In the first year of Covid when there could be no Dawn service due to lockdown, people were holding private vigils at the end of their driveways. It was in this year in the quiet and still morning air that Strathalbyn Football Club turned up their PA at the Oval and played the Ode, the Last Post along with a minute’s silence followed by the Australian National Anthem. The sound of this echoed around the area and people throughout the town were moved that such a thing had occurred.

Football has, it seems, always gone hand-in-hand with the ANZAC tradition with matches played on the day all around the country and certainly ‘as a kid’ I often went to the ANZAC match held then at Adelaide Oval. This was always a Grand Final rematch, between the two combatants, the two teams left standing at the very end of the previous season’s SANFL football season.

The AFL has built a traditional ANZAC Day game between Essendon and Collingwood and whilst this is the focal point of ANZAC week the other AFL matches are all based around the remembrance of those that have served and are serving, the fallen and those that have come home.

In the GSFL, in 2007 a discussion between Gordon Tonkin, President of Langhorne Creek and then Strathalbyn Committee member Steven Ness sowed the seed for the start of what is now a traditional ANZAC Day night match that alternates between the two home grounds of the neighbouring Clubs.

From this a rivalry round has been built with Clubs playing their nemesis or closest Club on the Saturday nearest to ANZAC Day with most holding a short remembrance ceremony and flagraising. These services often include diggers and those currently serving who may be home on leave or for other reasons making the day a true event to reflect and enjoy the company of friend and foe!

The day between Strathalbyn, this year’s host, and Langhorne Creek is often a very long affair with many of the players, supporters and Club’s hierarchy attending the Dawn Service and then heading to the Strathalbyn RSL Branch for a Gunfire breakfast – a bacon and egg sandwich – cooked by the Rooster
Senior Colts and helpers.

The Bar is, of course, open and some tails are told before a slight pause prior to the first match of the day, the Moddies, at 1 minute past midday. The football
continues through the afternoon prior to an ANZAC ceremony held on the Oval, with the sounding of the Last Post and a minute’s silence to reflect and remember before finishing with the Reveille. It is then game on as the two teams take to the park in a match where often the underdog seems to come away with the trophy – the Daish Cup and the best player on field is presented with the Smith/Follett ANZAC medal.

So, when you attend this week’s ANZAC matches take time to remember. Take time to reflect and cheer and support your Club in what is now a time honoured Aussie tradition – ANZAC Footy!


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