Anzac spirit resonates with Saints, Blues in NZ

JOSH Bruce walked around New Zealand’s newest Great War exhibition on Friday morning and marvelled at what he saw.

The St Kilda forward and acting captain Jarryn Geary spent an hour experiencing the $10 million project that takes the viewer through a virtual timeline of the country’s involvement in the First World War.

Starting in Belgium pre-1914, Bruce and Geary walked through a peaceful town setting that showed what life was like before all hell broke loose when the war began.

The exhibition – which cost $10 million, was designed by film director Sir Peter Jackson and opened only last week – was one of many eye-opening experiences for the players in the lead-up to Saturday’s St Kilda-Carlton clash at Westpac Stadium.

For Bruce, whose grandfather Bill served in the Royal Australian Air Force but never really spoke about his involvement, the experience had a profound impact.

“I’ve always had a keen interest in history. My grandfather fought in World War II as well so it’s really important and something we should know,” Bruce told AFL.com.au.

“It paid a really good tribute to the fallen New Zealand soldiers and I found it really powerful.

“Being here last year was incredible and to be able to do it again on the 100th anniversary, it’s really an honour because I don’t think New Zealand’s contribution gets acknowledged enough, especially in Australia.”

St Kilda coach Alan Richardson, his Carlton counterpart Mick Malthouse and administrative staff of both teams, plus suspended Carlton defender Chris Yarran attended the dawn service in Wellington on Saturday morning.

The early scheduling of the game made it hard for those playing to attend, but they had many other opportunities during the week to embrace the commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.

The Blues met with former Australian solider and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, whose words resonated with captain Marc Murphy.

“He spoke to the group for about an hour, talked about courage and leadership, some of the stories and experiences he’s been through with his time serving for Australia,” Murphy said.

“It was easily the best talk I’ve ever heard, he was quite inspiring, great to hear.

“He talked about leadership as a whole; that it’s not left up to one or two or three blokes, it’s everyone taking responsibility and being accountable for their actions.”

After training at Westpac Stadium on Friday, the Saints were visited by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, ahead of his appearance at the dawn service.

He presented both teams with a special Governor-General’s coin that features the crown (heads) on one side and the Australian coat of arms (tails) on the other.

The Saints’ coin will be featured in the toss between Geary and Murphy on Saturday.

The opportunity to captain their sides on Anzac Day isn’t lost on Geary or Murphy, who both visited the Australian Memorial at Wellington’s Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on Friday.

Geary, standing in for the injured Nick Riewoldt, has played on April 25 twice while Murphy will run out on the day for the first time.

“I’ve played for 10 years and first chance to play on Anzac Day … it’s a great opportunity,” Murphy said.

“It’s a new experience coming over to New Zealand, most of the boys haven’t been over to NZ before.

“To play on Anzac Day will be really special.”

 

Story – Jennifer Phelan