WCC Journal | A Day of Remembrance

It was an early rise for the Roosters, with a day of special activities planned.

Prior to the day, the players had been asked to have researched a family member who had fallen in war, if not a family member, a fallen solider from their hometown.

As the boys boarded the team bus they met Mike, a decorated war veteran and now war historian who would guide the Roosters through the hallowed Somme region, the site of horrific World War I battles and where nearly 7000 Australians lost their life.

The day was a chance for the Roosters to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but also learn from each other.

As the Roosters visited the numerous battlefields throughout the region, Mike would give detailed stories of what happened there and the devastating loss that had occurred.

The gravity of the experience was not lost on the players and staff as they listened intently and asked questions along the way.

Mike’s stories were backed up with the boy’s own research, as they took turns in sharing the story of the soldier they had researched.

Emotions were high as the squad stood at the foot at the towering New Zealand monument.

The Kiwi members of the squad placed poppies at the monument and then broke into stirring haka.

The rest of the squad and staff were left speechless as the proud Kiwi Roosters bellowed their haka, their booming voices ringing out across the vast open fields.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves said it was an emotional experience.

"To be able to pay our respects at such a hallowed monument is an unbelievable honour, and I will never forget this experience.”

Lunch was served at a quaint restaurant in Pozieres, a village that had particular ties with Australia as it was the site of a monumental battle with high ANZAC involvement. Many Diggers would lose  their life at this hallowed site.

The lunch was made extra special by a surprise visit from town mayor, Mr Bernard Delattre, who wished the Roosters good luck in the World Club Challenge and also the 2019 season ahead.

The final monument the squad would visit would be the Villers-Bretonneux the main memorial to Australian military personnel killed on the Western Front.

Here, the names of Australian soldiers who were never found are etched in the walls, including the name Robert Tidyman, an Eastern Suburbs Player who never returned from Battle.

Roosters Captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend placed a wreath at Villers-Bretonneux on behalf of the Sydney Roosters Club.

“Being here and seeing these battlefields in person is an emotional experience," Boyd said.

"You can’t imagine the hardships of the soldiers, and the adversity they would face on a daily basis. It’s sobering to think that they were men around our age and even younger.”

“As a squad we can take a lot away from these stories of bravery and mate-ship.”

The bus ride back to Paris was a quiet one, the conversations hushed and respectful as the boys reflected on stories from the day.

Team dinner would be a special one, as the Roosters met and dined with French rugby league club Toulouse Olympique. The two clubs would train with each the following day, so friendships were quickly formed.

It was a joyous dinner, the language barrier no match for the bond the players have over their love of rugby league.

The Roosters thanked Toulouse for their hospitality and caught the Metro back to the hotel, bed a welcome sight after a long and emotional day.