Somme trip gives added meaning to Anzac Day game for Roosters

Sydney Roosters players will draw on a pre-season visit to the World War I battlefields of France’s Somme region for their annual Anzac Day clash with St George Illawarra at the SCG.

During their trip to Europe for February’s World Club Challenge against Wigan, the Roosters visited Villers-Brettoneux and other nearby monuments to the 9,000 Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme.

They were among the 60,000 Australian and New Zealanders who died defending the Western Front.

Each player had to research a family member or soldier from their home town who had lost their lives in war, while they located the name of Robert Tidyman, a former Eastern Suburbs international, on a memorial to those Anzacs whose bodies were never found.

"When we went over to Paris for the World Club Challenge we did a day trip to where the Battle of the Somme was and we saw all the memorials and we went to the battle fields,” second-rower Angus Crichton said.

"We heard about some of the famous battle stories and were told about the numbers of people that passed away - the sons, the brothers and the husbands who never come home or were never found.

"That made it a lot more real and made my understanding of it a whole lot greater so for me to play on Anzac Day this year will definitely have a lot more meaning."

Angus Crichton wearing the Roosters' Anzac Day jersey.
Angus Crichton wearing the Roosters' Anzac Day jersey. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Crichton, who joined the Roosters from South Sydney in the off-season, will be playing in the club’s annual clash with the Dragons for the first time but he has always watched the match and wanted to be a part of it.

"You always seen how big the crowds are each year and it is a great opportunity to pay tribute to all the people that have allowed us to live the life that we do here in Australia," he said. 

"I would always be watching with great admiration and bit of jealousy at the turn-out the match gets and the occasion so to get out there and be a bit of entertainment for everyone on such a historical and important day for Australian and New Zealanders is an honour."

St George Illawarra forward Korbin Sims has also wanted to play in the match after watching brothers Ashton and Tariq in previous April 25 fixtures for the Dragons.

However, his prospects of lining up in the match look grim after he suffered a suspected broken arm in Sunday night's extra-time win over Newcastle. If scans on Monday confirm the break, he will likely be sidelined for a couple of months.

"Tariq has told me about playing on Anzac Day, the build-up and the roar of the crowd after the moment of silence, and how eerie it is that a stadium that big and that full could be silent," Sims told NRL.com before Sunday's clash with the Knights.

"It is a day that we recognise the past heroes who went and fought for the country that we get to live in now because without them and what they had to go through my generation and even younger generations wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing."

Dragons forward Korbin Sims in the club's 2019 Anzac Day strip.
Dragons forward Korbin Sims in the club's 2019 Anzac Day strip. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Regardless of the tradition of the fixture, which began in 2002, matches between the Roosters and Dragons are usually hard-fought affairs.

With the Roosters aiming to win back-to-back premierships, Sims said it would an important match for the Dragons.

"They are obviously the premiers for a reason, they are no slouches, but we are up for the challenge," Sims said.

"The two clubs have a lot of history against each other and they fireworks and the brand of footy that we play on the day won’t be any different."