We speak of the sacrifice and attrition that Rugby League players face on a weekly basis, but that pales in comparison to what those who fought on the battlefield had to come up against.
Three-hundred and forty Rabbitohs, including 177 first graders, seventeen NSW representatives and eleven internationals served in either WWI or WWII. With over 1100 first-graders to have played for the Club, that means over one-tenth of men who have worn the Cardinal and Myrtle have put their lives on the line in the field of battle.
With the Club’s 2019 ANZAC Jersey released, we not only remember them - we represent them with pride.
The new design puts a unique spin on the classic hooped jersey design - with poppies aligning together to replicate the Red stripes, laid across a Myrtle Green field - it perfectly represents the Club’s image whilst also recognising those who fought so bravely to allow us to be where we are today.
And the current crop of Rabbitohs will honour those before them on Friday night against the Panthers by wearing this cherished design.
“It’s a great round in the calendar and each team loves the spirit, and the feeling at the ground is always extremely special,” captain Sam Burgess said of ANZAC Round.
“The design is actually great, it’s got a few poppies in it, that’s my daughter’s name, but it's great to commemorate the people who've paid the ultimate sacrifice."
"It's great to commemorate the people who've paid the ultimate sacrifice" - Burgess
Despite ANZAC Round being a recent addition to the NRL’s annual calendar, experienced campaigner John Sutton is aware of the importance it holds for not only the Club, but the game of Rugby League as well.
“ANZAC Round has only come in the last few years, but I think it’s great we get to commemorate all the people that have put their lives on the line for this great country, and to be able to wear this jersey is an honour,” he explained.
“It’s a jersey that means a lot to us, and I can’t wait to wear it and put in a big performance.”
Youngsters Junior Tatola and Campbell Graham are only in their first few seasons of NRL football, but have already shown maturity beyond their years in recognising the opportunity they have this week when they run out at Panthers Stadium.
“I want to commemorate the people past and present who have sacrificed a lot for this country so it definitely means a lot to wear this jersey,” Tatola declared.
“I definitely think it’s a great thing the Club is doing, and it’ll be great for the boys to wear the jersey and do our Club and country proud.
I want to commemorate the people past and present who have sacrificed a lot for this country so it definitely means a lot to wear this jerseyJunior Tatola
“I personally think it’ll give us a bit of extra motivation on Friday night.”
Graham was quick to agree - pointing out his passion for the shirt despite not having any family history with the ANZACs.
“We’ll be extra hyped wearing this jersey and knowing what it means - and we’re going to do our best to represent this jersey with pride,” he explained.
“I don’t have any ANZACs with all my family being all from the UK, but Australia is my country and I want to do everybody proud.
“It’s an awesome design, especially with the hoops being based on the poppies.”
But the importance of this new jersey extends further than just the playing group.
With her grandfather, father, uncles and cousins all either previously or currently involved in the Australian Army, Rabbitohs Life Member Michelle Booth is certainly someone who resonates with this special jersey.
"My family history with the ANZACs goes a long way," Michelle explained.
"My grandfather fought in WWI, my father and uncles fought in WWII and I currently have cousins fighting in the army now.
"ANZAC Day is a very sentimental day for us, particularly for myself and my father as we used to go to the dawn service, the march and then to the ANZAC Day game each year.
"The round as a whole gives people and Members from every Club to have that moment to pay respect to the people who served. It’s irrespective of what Club you come from - we all get that same moment in time where we can step back and think about what’s really important and that’s giving the diggers the respect they deserve."
Having released a number of ANZAC-themed jerseys in the past, the Club’s newest design - according to Michelle - has more sentimental and personal meaning for her than any other; harking to her father’s experience in the army alongside none-other than legendary captain-coach of the 1950s, Jack Rayner.
"As a Rabbitohs Member it means a lot because it shows our Club pays due respect to the servicemen of the past," she said.
"This year’s jersey is a bit more special for me in regards to the design. As a kid, I’d go to ANZAC Day marches with my dad and he would talk about the war and tell me what the soldiers would do in their downtime.
"And what they did a lot in his regiment was play football - I have a photo of him during those times and Jack Rayner is in there with him.
"I think about that a lot. I know they say Rugby League just a game, but it meant so much for them at the time, and the fact our Club shows that respect means a lot to me.
"I don’t know who was responsible for this year’s design, but the use of the poppies brings back an emotional memory for me. As a child my dad used to recite a phrase to me:
'I have a little poppy, as red as red can be, to show that I remember those who fought to make me free.'
"The poppies on the jersey are a beautiful touch - you have the green of the hill as well and it’s just lovely. It encompasses the Rabbitohs jersey and I like how the sponsorship blends in and doesn’t stand out - that holds a lot of respect to me."
It’s irrespective of what Club you come from - we all get that same moment in time where we can step back and think about what’s really important and that’s giving the diggers the respect they deserve.Michelle Booth Rabbitohs Life Member
You can expect that Michelle will make the trip to Penrith to see her beloved Rabbitohs do battle with the Panthers in an all-important Round 7 clash with her jersey in tow.
And with the memories of her grandfather, uncles and father alongside her, you get the feeling that her presence in the Burrow will be greater than ever before.
"Most definitely," she laughed.
"I’ll be proud to wear this on Friday night, with the Rabbitoh over my heart and my father’s medals on my chest.
"There’ll be a few tears in the eyes when we start off, but I won’t be alone. I’ll have my dad, my uncles and my grandfather with me.
"They’ll all be there."