There has always been a strong connection between AFL and the armed forces, and since 1995 Collingwood and Essendon have battled it out on ANZAC Day to honour the men and women who have served our country.
In Queensland the relationship between Australia’s game and Australia’s troops goes back more than a century.
Exactly one hundred years ago, a team representing the Royal Australian Artillery, or RAA, joined the Queensland Football League’s premiership ranks. The team had a good deal of Tasmanian and Victorian experience and wore red and blue colours. RAA only competed in the premiership in 1912 and 1913, in the latter reaching the Grand Final in which it was defeated by Valley.
In the early part of the 20th century, local teams, often-representative teams, used to played matches against members of visiting warships.
On the first day of Spring in 1923 the Valley team scored a win which, on the face of it, sounds like a historic victory over one of the champion Victorian teams of the day. On that September afternoon at Perry Park Valley defeated the Melbourne team – but alas, these were the boys from the visiting warship HMAS Melbourne, not their more illustrious (in a footballing sense) VFL namesakes.
During the latter years of World War II, a servicemen’s competition was run as well as the local premiership. Several champion players from southern states, who were presumably on service based in Brisbane at the time, took part. Teams included Ack-Ack, Troop Engineers, Headquarters, Wireless, Survey, Employment Company, Workshops, Signals, Machine Gunners, Army Service, RAAF Stores, and Naval Depot.
In 1945, Workshops, an army unit team consisting mostly of Victorian players, competed in the local premiership. The strength of the service teams was underlined when Workshops went on to win the flag that year by defeating Windsor in the Grand Final.
This weekend, clubs right around Queensland will be respecting this connection in their own way, made more poignant with 2015 being the centenary anniversary of the Gallipoli landing at ANZAC Cove.
Wilston Grange vs. Sandgate
8:00pm – Hickey Park
Friday night footy is back in 2015, with the annual ANZAC Day eve game at Hickey Park between the Gorillas and the Hawks. They will play off for the Jewell Forbes Trophy, with the best on ground receiving the ANZAC medal.
In a new initiative, on Thursday night the colts will play at 6pm, followed by the reserves at 8:15pm.
Hermit Park Tigers vs. Curra Swans
8:00pm – Tony Ireland Stadium
In what is an annual event on the AFL Townsville calendar, these clubs are the two closest located to the Australia Army base of Lavarack Barracks. The game always attracts a large number of Defence Force Personnel. The reserves play in a curtain raiser before the seniors, kicking off at 6:00pm
Gold Coast SUNS vs. Sydney Swans
12:00pm – Harrup Park
Mackay will host a NEAFL blockbuster this weekend, with the SUNS and Swans squaring off. Fans in attendance will be spoilt with dual Brownlow Medal winner and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes running around again this week for Sydney.
AFL Mackay Representative City vs. Country Match
3:15pm – Harrup Park
Following on from the NEAFL match, Mackay’s best footballers will be on show in the annual City vs. Country match.
UQ vs. Morningside
2:00pm – Oval 7 St Lucia
At 2pm on ANZAC day, the Panthers and Red Lions will play for the inaugural Cross River Cup. There is a bit of a friendly rivalry being born between the two clubs. A few of the UQ boys have previously worn the Morningside jumper, and current UQ senior assistant Tim MacKinley was once coach at Morningside.
Maroochydore vs. Noosa
2:10pm – Maroochydore Oval 1
Maroochydore will host four games on Saturday, with the undefeated senior team headlining in their clash with Noosa. There will an ANZAC ceremony before the game gets underway, following the reserves game. Maroochydore’s thirds take on Gympie and the colts take on Redland on Oval 2.
Carrara vs. Bond University
5:15pm Nielsens Road Oval
An ANZAC Day twilight special between two local rivals. The reserves will kick off the day at 3:00pm before the Last Post is played, and the seniors get underway.