TRADITION: Bombers' Joe Daniher.
TRADITION: Bombers' Joe Daniher. HAMISH BLAIR

ANZAC Day footy is played like a final

Aussie Rules: Anzac Day was upon us again (yesterday) and for me it is the most emotional and revered time of the year.

Firstly, it is a day to commemorate our fallen soldiers, our men and women who courageously served our country, it is a day of respect and a day to pay homage to these great Australians.

In my mind they are the true heroes, the true legends of yesterday and the true champions of today.

I've been attending dawn services since I was very young and no matter where in the country I am I always find my way to the war memorial at the crack of dawn, then continue on to the local RSL for a chat and a cold beer with the diggers, followed up by a game of two up and of course a game of footy.

It is a great Australian tradition that I don't take lightly and looking back on previous Anzac Day moments it has produced some of my fondest memories.

From Darwin, Adelaide River, Cairns, Melbourne, Albury and now Gympie every one of those mornings was a special occasion that I will always remember and cherish.

From the people, the stories, the bond and the tears of triumph and loss, it epitomises the character and culture that Australia stands for.

On a sporting level, the Collingwood and Essendon game is played like a final, the emotion, the intensity and the atmosphere is electric.

The goose bumps on the back of your neck are an absolute given and it starts with the Last Post.

It all started with a vision from one of the game's greatest ambassadors and coaches, Kevin Sheedy.

Sheedy's name will always be synonymous with Australian Rules Football and with the help of the then Victorian Returned and Services League president, the late Bruce Ruxton the Bombers and Magpies Anzac match was born.

The first modern Anzac Day clash was played between Collingwood and Essendon on Tuesday, April 25, 1995 at the MCG.

Soon after the Anzac Day march in the city, patrons flocked to the ground.

Crowds outside the MCG were so substantial at 12.30pm, that then Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews thought the gates to the ground must have been still locked.

An additional 20,000 people had to be dispersed by mounted police, while they attempted to gain admission into the stadium.

Thousands of these supporters descended on nearby Fitzroy Gardens, where they listened to the game on radio.

A total of 94,825 people attended that game in '95, roars from the crowd could be heard a kilometre away and it still remains one of the biggest crowds in AFL/VFL history.

That's the passion and spirit of the occasion, every Australian understands the sacrifice, endurance, mateship and courage of the diggers and service people of years gone and that will never be forgotten.

Anzac footy is our way of showing respect to the day and to the history of our great country, long live the Anzac spirit.

Lest we forget.