Large Defense Force turnout for Warriors’ Anzac Day match

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, center, lines up with Warriors teammates and Defense Force personnel ahead of the Anazc Day fixture at Mt Smart Stadium.
Photo: NZ Defense Force

The New Zealand Defense Force’s largest contingent commemorating Anzac Day this year will be at Mt Smart Stadium for the Warriors’ NRL match against the Gold Coast Titans.

Pomp and pageantry will mix with rugby league, as more than 150 defense soldiers and staff attend the match, which is only the second time the Warriors, the only New Zealand team in the NRL competition, have hosted the Anzac Day fixture. The first was nine years ago, marking the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Gallipoli campaign.

The New Zealand Army Band will lead proceedings on the field, with singers, a bugler and a navy guard of honor taking on the ceremonial duties, while an air force A109 helicopter will deliver the match ball, touching down on the halfway line before the match .

The Australian Defense Force will be represented with a flagbearer on the field.

Warriors and Titans fans will be able to look through light armored vehicles (LAVs) and the army’s new armored Bushmasters. They can also meet the soldiers who operate them, while the military’s working dogs will show their skills at halftime.

The Warriors celebrate a try against the Rabbitohs on April 6.
Photo: David Neilson

“It’s a special honor for us to host the Anzac Day game again,” Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.

“We’re extremely grateful to the New Zealand Defense Force for lending such valuable support to ensure we are able to mark the day in a dignified and respectful way.”

Mt Smart Stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000, is sold out for the match.

The Defense Force said it was the largest contingent they would have commemorating Anzac Day anywhere in the world.

Lieutenant Colonel Tony Sumner said Anzac Day commemoration was one of the most important national occasions on both sides of the Tasman.

“While Anzac had its origins on the beaches and hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula over a century ago, this day continues to symbolize the very close bonds we have with our Australian friends.

“To be able to commemorate those who have served, fought and fallen on such a large sporting stage is a particular honor.”

The Warriors will wear a special commemorative jersey, made up of several design elements honoring those who have fought for New Zealand and Australia.

The Warriors, who are 10th on the NRL ladder, will be keen to beat the Titans, who have not won in their six matches so far this season.

Ahead of the 4pm match, there will be an Anzac-themed curtain-raiser, when the Defense Force’s women’s rugby league team plays a New Zealand Police team.

Across the Tasman, the Defense Force’s men’s team will take on their Australian counterparts before the NRL clash between the Sydney Roosters and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Accor Stadium in Sydney.

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