ANZAC Cup Player Spotlight – Daniel Tracey
On ANZAC Day 2018, the 10th annual ANZAC Cup between the men’s and women’s Australian Spirit sides and their French national team counterparts will be played to mark the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. AFL Europe will be putting the spotlight on some of the players who will represent Australia each week in the lead-up to the game, highlighting their remarkable connections to the ANZAC’s and previewing an incredible event.
Growing up on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, Dan Tracey has always possessed a strong connection to both football and the ANZACs from a very young age.
As a junior, he was introduced to football through his father and the St Ives Junior AFL Club, where he played for eleven years to win just one glorious premiership. It remains Dan’s only premiership to date.
Until a few years before he began playing football, his father represented the Armed Forces for a stint that lasted 24 years in the Regular Army. From his training at the Royal Military College at Duntroon to reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Dan’s father spent two and a half years in Papua New Guinea where he trained and assisted the PNG Army.
Dan’s great-uncle Alexander Eason Ross was also a Duntroon graduate, serving 35 years in the Regular Army as an engineer and attaining the rank of Brigadier on the way. He fought in the Second World War and after its conclusion, Alexander used his training in helping construct the ANZAC Memorial Chapel at Duntroon.
But it wasn’t just his relatives that got involved in the ANZAC tradition.
His father’s and great uncle’s legacy led Dan to become involved himself during his high school days at Barker College. As a student heavily involved in the cadets, Dan thoroughly enjoyed his time learning and developing within the cadet unit.
“I was given the opportunity to take a leadership role a year earlier than normal, because there weren’t enough leaders in the year above, and I grew a lot from this. In my final year, I was CUO and second-in-command of the unit in the role of Training Officer. I got involved as much as I could – Adventure Training, skydiving, drill and skill competitions, playing in the Unit Regimental Band at ANZAC Day marches, and then instructing younger cadets at Adventure Training and leadership courses.”
Years later and Dan’s family still remains tightly linked to the Armed Forces.
His father’s passion for military history has led him to lead an average of three Kokoda treks a year, for the past ten years, with Adventure Kokoda. Dan joined him for his first trek in 2009, where he remembers his dad’s passion explaining the military and historical details of the Kokoda campaign to trekkers, many of which had family connections to the campaign. But as Dan explains, that’s not all his father has been up too since his time in the Armed Forces.
“Dad is currently commissioned by the Department of Defence to write the official history of the 2nd Division that fought in WW1. The 2nd Division fought at Villers-Bretonneux where three soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross (Sergeant Walter Brown, VC (6 July 1918 Villers-Bretonneux), DCM, 20th Battalion, 5th Brigade; Lieutenant Albert Borella, VC (17/18 July 1918 Villers-Bretonneux), MM, 26th Battalion, 7th Brigade; Lieutenant Alfred Gaby, VC (8 August 1918 Villers-Bretonneux, Posthumous), 28th Battalion, 7th Brigade).”
Today you will find Dan still playing football and keen to remain in touch with the ANZAC tradition. Now thousands of miles away from the North Shore, Dan resides in Oxford and plays Australia’s game at the Oxford University Australian Rules Football Club. As the captain in 2016-17, Dan has continued to showcase his football talents on the AFL Europe stage. Needless to say, the former skipper of Oxford’s side is looking forward to participating in his first ANZAC Cup, a match he has heard so much about in the past.
“Two Oxford women who played in the ANZAC Cup last year spoke really highly of their experience, and this had me sold. In particular, they were blown away by the incredible gratefulness, generosity and warm welcome of the people in ‘V-B’, and the connections they made with host families, French players, and local school children. This goes to show how much the Australian soldiers’ sacrifice means to the people in ‘V-B’, even after 100 years – I can’t think of anything else like it. To meet these people and experience their gratefulness first-hand would be wonderful.”
Next month he will have the chance to meet these people at Villers-Bretonneux in a weekend that will mean much more than just another game of football for his family.
‘’Respect for our Armed Forces and a love of footy have always been big parts of our family and especially the relationship between Dad and I. We were together on the Kokoda Track and at the last two Swans premierships, and these were bonding moments. If I was involved in the ANZAC Cup match, Dad would be very much a part of it and proud on both the military and footy aspects – as would the rest of my family.’’
Will Taylor – AFL Europe
Stay across afleurope.org and AFL Europe social media channels for more news and build-up to ANZAC Cup 2018.