Storm show Anzac spirit

Cooper Cronk shakes the hand of a service man after the win over the Warriors. Photo / News Corp Australia
Cooper Cronk shakes the hand of a service man after the win over the Warriors. Photo / News Corp Australia

Is this the difference between the Melbourne Storm and the Warriors and why the Auckland-based franchise is languishing?

The Storm is a team with leaders right across the park.

And that attitude is reflected in everything the club does and was a factor in the 42-0 thrashing of the Warriors last night.

Witness this moment with Storm halfback Cooper Cronk in the moments before the kick-off in last year's Anzac Day clash with the Warriors in Melbourne.

While his teammates took their set positions, Cronk bolted for the sidelines to a former serviceman seated in the grandstand to shake his hand before returning to the field.

When asked to revisit the wonderful gesture in the lead-up to last night's clash with the Warriors, Cronk said he had never met the man but felt it important to express the gratitude all Australians felt towards our servicemen and women.

"I don't have any family members or friends that have served in war, but when I sing the national anthem I always spot someone in the crowd wearing a veteran's or army uniform," Cronk explained.

"That really gets the heart pumping and you know it is sort of a bigger occasion than just a rugby league match. I saw him and I remember he was saluting and standing tall and proud and singing the anthem.

"You just feel very grateful to be playing on such a day, so it was just a reaction as I wanted to give a gesture of saying 'thank you'."

Cronk's mark of respect was reflective of a club that has never taken for granted its opportunity to host an annual game on Anzac Day.

The clash with the Warriors, which started in 2009, has grown to become the biggest home game on the Storm calendar.

Cronk shakes the hand of a serviceman before last year's Anzac Day clash.

"We feel quite honoured to have a chance to play the game because there is so much emotion and so much respect," Cronk said.

"There is a lot of gratefulness and thankfulness around it because while you never want to compare sport and war, you always like to think you play the game in the right spirit and celebrate what is a very significant day on the Australian calendar.

"The significance is certainly not lost on the players."

Under coach Craig Bellamy, the teaching of the Anzac legend is passed down to the Storm players every year. The Storm mentor reinforces to his players that it was a privilege to play on the sacred day.

"To me it's the most famous day in Australia's history," Bellamy said.

"They all really enjoy playing and over the seven years we've played on this day it has become a real part of the calendar here, it's a big day for us."

Cronk said education was a key part in understanding the importance of Anzac Day.

"Over the course we have had a lot of guest speakers come in and a tour of the Shrine of Remembrance," Cronk said.

"One Anzac Day I went to the dawn service and played that evening. I think all of us at the club have a responsibility to understand it because we play on the day so we have to respect the occasion."

Warriors fans used social media to vent on how poorly their side had fronted on a special day of brotherhood and commitment to (team) mates.

Compared to the Storm, those fans must be wondering if the Warriors have rammed home the importance of Anzac Day and doing your best.

- NZ Herald

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