When The Last Post is played at AAMI Park on Anzac Day, my thoughts will turn to my best mate Jared.
We go back a long way — in fact, we’ve known each other since we were eight years old.
We grew up in the same street in Logan, went to school together and played junior footy at the same club.
As we grew older, I was lucky enough to continue with my football career while he joined the Australian Defence Force several years after school. But to this day we remain as close as ever.
He has now had two tours of duty — one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, thankfully returning home safely from both of those trips.
Naturally I always worry for him during those times away.
My wife and I are always checking reports of Australian troops and what they’re up to during his deployment.
And I’m sure that is the case for all family and friends of our brave Diggers when they’re overseas.
It helps that these days our troops have access to things such as Skype and email.
So when they get the opportunity they can contact loved ones back in Australia to say g’day and reassure them they are OK.
But for those of us who are close to him, it doesn’t make us miss him any less.
Speaking to him for the last time before he goes off again is always a bit tough.
I always tell him to look after himself and to keep his head down.
But I know he will.
When he’s on tour, he’s never far from my thoughts.
Those thoughts become more frequent at this time of year.
To be playing on Anzac Day is a very special thing and we at Melbourne Storm don’t take it for granted.
I feel like I’m representing a small part of him on that day and it certainly hits very close to home.
It’s a huge honour to be able to play on such a significant day for both Australia and New Zealand, given our team has strong representation for both countries.
Anzac Day is a time to reflect on the extraordinary service and sacrifice of our Australian and New Zealand military personnel.
The Diggers from the past have played a huge part in ensuring that we still live in a beautiful country.
We pay tribute to them all, as well as the current day troops we still have serving like my good mate Jared, on this very special day.
At Storm, this is a day we all look forward to.
It is likely to be the biggest crowd we get all year in the home-and-away season.
I know the Collingwood-Essendon clash is a big occasion at the MCG.
The Dragons and the Roosters game in Sydney on the same night as ours will also be a great spectacle.
But, if you ask me, this is the true Anzac clash.
It is the only game out of all the codes where you have an Australian team going up against a New Zealand team.
We’re very fortunate to have that set up with the Warriors.
The match will be the sixth time we’ve played on this iconic day and both clubs have worked together to make this an annual fixture and the fans love it as much as we do.
I’m expecting a high quality game that will be played in the famous Anzac spirit that we all know and love.
This article is couresy of the Herald Sun originally appeared on Thursday 24 April.