Australians will go into battle against the Turks again on Anzac Day, but this time on a rugby league field in at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
ADF Rugby League (ADFRL) will play a Turkish team made up of Australian-based players, for the first time in a curtain-raiser for the NRL Anzac Day clash between the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons.
ADFRL coach Chief Petty Officer Shane Bullock said the Anzac Day fixture was usually a contest between ADFRL and New Zealand sides but because of COVID-19, there was an opportunity to play the Turkish residents’ team instead.
“It’s a big occasion when we play the Kiwis – we fought arm-in-arm with New Zealand – but it all started in Gallipoli,” CPO Bullock said.
“This is the biggest Anzac Day game we’ve played.”
The ADF will field a near full-strength side, made up of players from all services.
Chief Petty Officer Bullock said the experienced players would play in the ‘team spine’ – hooker, the halves and full-back.
Front-rower and team captain Able Seaman Connor McCabe, who played with Brisbane Broncos juniors and is currently training with NSW Cup club Mounties Rugby League, brings a level head to the match.
Chief Petty Officer Bullock said the Turkish team was an “unknown”, with some semi-professional emerging and senior players.
The Turkish players have been drawn from NSW development leagues, including the Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup. Two Turkish national players are also in the squad.
The ADF team has come together over the past two weeks for a handful of training sessions, which included sitting in on a Roosters training session.
The squad also visited the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park and on April 23 had breakfast with their Turkish counterparts.
Event organisers hope the match will become a regular Anzac Day event.
“There have been talks of an opportunity to play the game in Turkey in the future,” Chief Petty Officer Bullock said.