Anzac Day football a privilege for us all

SACRED OCCASION The Last Post is played at last year's Anzac Day clash between St George Illawarra and the Roosters. Picture: Getty Images

SACRED OCCASION The Last Post is played at last year's Anzac Day clash between St George Illawarra and the Roosters. Picture: Getty Images

PEOPLE often tell us rugby league pen pushers that we have the best job in the world – getting paid to watch footy.

It’s certainly not the worst gig in the world. Truth is, like most jobs, it’s neither as easy or as hard as most people think. That said, there’s one day a year where the job ceases to be job at all and becomes a complete privilege.

It’s not grand final day, it’s not State of Origin. It’s this coming Tuesday when the Dragons will take on the Roosters in their annual Anzac Day showdown.

It’s a day when the rugby league soap opera is put on hold and we see it for what it really is –  just a game. The greatest game of all, but a game nonetheless.

For us journos, for the crowd, for the players, the privilege it is just to be there, the only battle to be fought taking place on the sporting field.

It’s a message hits home further when you hear stories of a generation of brave young men who didn’t get to play as many games as they should have.

Kickoff can’t take credit for the story that came across our desk in the lead-up to Anzac Day. It was in fact Mr Barry Ross, Rex Mossop’s longtime off-sider and rugby league historian of highest note, who brought our attention to the story of Aubrey “Johnny” Robinson. 

Born in Cumberland, England on 18 May 1916, Johnny migrated to Wollongong with his family in the early 1920s. He enrolled at Christian Brothers College in 1928 and graduated in 31, going on to work at Wollongong Gaslight Company.

He was also a talented footballer while at school having played with Old Boys Union in 1932, as well as senior football with the Keira in 1933. He played the next four seasons with his former school mates at CBC before joining Mt Kembla. As the South Coast Times reported on June 27, 1939, Robinson landed a long-range field goal, which went in off the upright, giving Mt Kembla firsts an 11-10 win over Port Kembla at Wollongong Showground.

His story to that point is typical of most young men in the Illawarra today, but, with the coming of World War II, it deviated.

Robinson enlisted in Sydney in the RAAF in 1941 before being sent to Canada in July 1942 for training as a pilot. After earning his Bombers Badge in early March 1943 and shifted to England where he would make 39 successful operational flights over eight months.

On January 2, 1944, as pilot of a Lancaster Bomber with the 460 squadron, he flew out for his 10th raid over Berlin. His plane did not return. In a South Coast Times obituary on July 21, 1944, Johnny’s parents confirmed their son had been killed in action, and that he was interned at Berlin War Cemetery.

The obituary stated he was an ex student of CBC, and that he loved rugby league. He was only 28 when he flew his final mission. He should have got to play a lot more football. Lest we forget.

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