For many Australians, ANZAC Day and the build-up is about honouring the brave diggers and doing this through a passion for Australian football.
The French national team will join the Australians in the small town of Villers-Bretonneux to celebrate ‘Australia Week’ and for the 11thconsecutive year, will be host to the ANZAC Cup matches at Stadium Timmerman.
After a close match last year in the men’s, with Australia winning by 17 points, this year is expected to be another tightly contested game as the French look to win their first match since 2013.
In the women’s, France will be ready to take on Australia and hope to turn their fortunes around from last year when the visitors won by 53 points thanks to a strong defensive performance. This is the fourth year of the women’s match, and this could well be the closest game yet.
With ANZAC Day falling on a Thursday this year, the Australian squad has been in Villers-Bretonneux since Wednesday to spend time visiting the memorials around the area, and train at the ground in preparation for the matches on Saturday 27thof April.
An Australia Spirit side will be up against the French National team in a men’s and women’s clash for the 2019 ANZAC Cup, in honour of the people who fought at war and a part of the celebrations, where Australian diggers retook the Villers-Bretonneux land from the Germans on the 24th April 1918.
The game so beloved to Australian’s is now rapidly growing across Europe, with 24 countries across the continent now playing the sport.
“The annual ANZAC game has evolved over the years and so has the French team. In recent years, we have seen a rapid improvement in the game style and therefore results from a French perspective,” said French coach Andrew Unsworth.
Much like the Essendon against Collingwood Anzac Day tradition in the AFL, this ANZAC Cup match takes that feel and has protocols in order to honour the diggers.
With the last post being played and both the Australian and French National Anthems, it provides great build up much like the match at the iconic MCG and is a great tradition of the armed forces and the Australian football community.
Over 70 applicants went for a spot in the Australian Spirit sides, however, teams were narrowed down to family and personal connections to the armed forces and more importantly, the connection to the battle that occurred in Villers-Bretonneux, rather than football experience.
Captain of the Australian Spirit men’s team, Ben Carter, has a great connection to the land that the team will be playing on, as his Uncle is buried in Villers-Bretonneux.
“It is an honour and a privilege to be named Captain of the ANZAC Cup Team. It is an incredible opportunity to reflect and remember the sacrifices many ANZACs made for our freedom, and for me personally to honour my Great Uncle who died in the Villers-Bretonneux battle 101 years ago, just 2 kilometres away from our playing field.”
The other Captain for the Australian Spirit women’s squad, Nicole Young, is also looking forward to the occasion and was thrilled to be selected as a captain alongside Ben.
“It is an absolute honour and while I am not going to lie, I am a little nervous – I am also excited to be able to lead a team of inspiring Australian women. Not just as we run out onto the field, but throughout the week of commemorations as we represent our country and our ancestors.”
Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.