The AFL's Anzac sporting spirit - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

The AFL's Anzac sporting spirit

Guy Hand 25/04/2011 05:42:00 PM Comments (0)

No wonder every other AFL club wants a piece of Anzac Day.

So often there are attempts to market sport as an event - the ultimate matchday experience designed by a ponytailed sales whiz with far too many zeroes in his pay cheque.

What results is mass-produced confection without substance. Melt-in-the-mouth memories which neither nourish nor satisfy.

The AFL Anzac Day match is real.

Real diggers who fought through a series of wars are feted and commemorated.

Real awe as servicemen and women from World War I to the present day are heartily cheered around the boundary.

Real emotion and goosebumps as The Last Post rings out, and the reflective silence that follows is observed perfectly by 89,626 spectators at the MCG.

Real sporting rivalry between Collingwood and Essendon.

Two arch-enemies who bring massive fan bases even at different stages of their football development.

After 17 Anzac Day matches, the clubs have built the biggest home-and-away football match of any code, anywhere in Australia.

Sport and war could - and probably should - make awkward bedfellows.

On Monday at the MCG, they were woven together seamlessly. Effortlessly.

For an hour and a half before the match starts, sport takes a deferential back seat.

To remembering the brutality and bravery of war, the fight for the freedom now enjoyed by all in attendance.

At the first bounce, it all changes.

Suddenly it's all about football. The competition yardsticks Collingwood and rising stars Essendon turn on occasion-fitting footy.

Down by as many as 29 points in the second term, the young Bombers fight back to stretch every sinew of the Collingwood beast.

It is gripping, absorbing, but for Essendon ultimately gutting, as the Magpies lift in the final term to win by 30 points and cement their flag favouritism.

Since its 1995 inception, the Anzac Day match has grown to become the AFL's biggest occasion outside the grand final.

As calls grow for Essendon and Collingwood to share the fixture with other clubs, the two teams spent two hours producing the most compelling of arguments to keep things as they are.

It was an event with something for the theatregoer.

A match with something for the sports fan.

An occasion with something memorable for everyone - no matter which club you barrack for.

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