Thanks to the Essendon and Collingwood football clubs Anzac Day at the MCG is nothing short of awesome. Every year, no matter where the teams are on the AFL ladder and regardless of the final score, come the 25th of April you can be assured that the footy itself will epitomise the spirit of the brave men and women who fought for our rights to collectively enjoy and exercise our freedom. The day itself and the growth it has experienced since its inception would not be the same if it were not the Dons and the Pies.
When Kevin Sheedy originally approached the Magpiesâ€™ administrators he had a vision. It was hoped that one day it could be football that assists to facilitate the recognition of this important day. Ideally footy fans would regularly attend the ceremonious event in their droves preserving the substance of Anzac Day and allowing it to thrive within the minds of Australiaâ€™s future generations. The revolutionary idea was to utilise modern-day mainstream culture to annually pay due respect and further emphasise a national holiday that was unfortunately losing its significance. Although, age shall not weary them, regretfully their memory began to fade as we that are left grow old.
Nothing raises the hairs on the rear of my neck like being at the home of Australian football with more than 90,000 Aussies remaining dead silent as a sole bugle belts out the â€œLast Standâ€. As an Essendon fan, as a football fan, as a sports fan and as an Aussie I know that I will be privy to these sentiments once a year for the remainder of my days. I revel in that fact. My attendance at the stadium is predominantly driven by the actuality that it is my favourite team on the field, however, the tingles are completely derived from the knowledge of what the day represents outside of football.
From an AFL perspective thereâ€™s the usual, annual pleas for the success of the occasion to be shared amongst other clubs on future Anzac Days. I deem this a preposterous and desperate attempt at money grabbing that disrespects the efforts of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps as well as those involved in making the anticipated experience what it has become. Do those that succumb to their personal bias recognise and appreciate the reasons why it is Collingwood and Essendon?
Firstly, the two clubs most directly effected by the devastation of war throughout the first half of the 1900s were the Bombers and Magpies. These two VFL teams lost more members of their respective football clubs than any others. Secondly, it was the coach of Essendon that had the passion to pursue the notion until he witnessed its conception and resulting evolution. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Anzac Day commands maximum recognition, hence, in order to achieve this in a manner of due respect it needs to be conducted in front of as many people as possible, thus maximising public exposure, as is the case. Guaranteed sell outs also result in live TV coverage adding to the respectful unravelling of the dayâ€™s magnitude. Therefore, the drawing power of the two clubs synonymous with Anzac Day make them the perfect candidates.
When asked whether Anzac Day should feature different teams Kevin Sheedy explained, â€œWhy break history? Everyone can go and get the best game they can. We have no problems with Carlton playing Melbourne or whoever on the Queens birthday for the royals if that is what they love they can do it… You can always pick a marquee game out. We have picked ours for the people that have been in the defence forces of Australia and I would love to see it there forever… I realise I wonâ€™t be coaching forever but I know will always be coming along to ANZAC Day to see the Magpies and the Bombers.â€
Supporters from other AFL clubs harbour deluded dreams that their respective footy teams are circling around the concept of Anzac Day hoping for a slice of the pie. However, the clubs themselves are considerably more informed (and more realistic) than these helplessly hopeful followers. Other AFL teams recognise that the sensation of Anzac Day from an AFL perspective is because of the two teams involved. Anzac Day would not be the same if it were played between a revolving combination of other clubs. The match itself has been a massive success for over a decade and altering the idea while tweaking the tradition would represent a slap in the face to the very men and women that this notable day is intended to acknowledge.