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Honouring Sacrifice: A Look at the 2024 NRL ANZAC Day Jerseys

As ANZAC Day approaches, the NRL gears up not just for a few games of football, but for a solemn tribute to the heroes who served and sacrificed for their countries. Each year, teams unveil a special jersey designed to pay homage to the ANZAC spirit and commemorate the legacy of those who fought in WWI. Their undying devotion to their nation shall never be forgotten as we look at how some of the teams are paying their respects in 2024.

We begin with the Melbourne Storm, who have taken a tremendously creative approach to their design this year. The zig-zag pattern of the jersey has taken inspiration from The Shrine Courtyards in Melbourne. The zig-zag walls of the courtyard represent the manner in which the trenches were dug in World War 1. The jersey also pays homage to the dazzle style of camouflage used by the Naval forces through both the first and second World Wars. Unique in it’s approach, the intention of dazzle camouflage is not to conceal but in fact to make it difficult to estimate the target’s distance, speed and heading. This very design was utilised on the HMAS Melbourne in WWI, and will be sure to serve as a useful weapon for the Storm on Thursday.

As the Sydney Roosters look to gear up for their 22nd annual ANZAC Day Cup clash with the St George Illawarra Dragons, the proud Eastern Suburbs club have honoured their history with a jersey design that established its origins during the climax of the Second World War. The Bondi Blue Jersey of 2024 symbolises wartime hardship, as well as on-field success for the club during World War II. Amidst uncertainty, rugby league remained integral to the wartime effort, with players enlisting and teams adapting to war-time constraints. In 1944, the club introduced the Bondi Blue Jersey, abandoning their traditional tri-colours in an effort to conserve materials. Despite initial scepticism, the jersey became emblematic of the club’s resilience and eventual premiership victory in 1945. While the Tricolours returned post-war, the influence of the Bondi Blue remains, commemorating the sacrifices of those who served.

The Manly Sea Eagles have taken a traditional approach in their jersey design for 2024, opting to pay respect to the Royal Australian Navy as well. The front of the jersey features three gold chevrons, referencing the chevron placed on the sleeve of a Naval Officer for each four years of good conduct. The words “Lest We Forget” adorn the inside of the collar, and the year 1901 on the outer, the year the Royal Australian Navy was formed. A connection to the past, present and future of all service men and women has been drawn by the inclusion of an anchor on the back of the jersey; a consistent element of the Australian Navy’s Official Badge since 1949. The values of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity, and Excellence feature as prominently on the sleeves as they do in the hearts of our Australian Defence Force.

In 2024, the South Sydney Rabbitohs ANZAC Jersey celebrates the third year of their ongoing partnership with the Royal Australian Navy as well. The jersey’s naval blue and white pattern mirrors the design of the Navy’s ‘Sailor Suit’ ceremonial uniform. The design underscores the ongoing shared values of both the navy and the Rabbitohs; mateship, high-performance, commitment to the team and achieving success. The oldest, loudest and proudest club in the league continue to show their respect of history and sacrifice in this design.

The Parramatta Eels continue the Naval theme this year with their jersey. The blue and gold club shares a rich history with the Navy, with ‘Parramatta’ being the oldest name in Australian Naval history. In 2024, their ANZAC jersey honours this connection, with the indigenous dot pattern forming the shape of the Parramatta River, paying homage to the Navy and the four HMAS ships named in recognition of the Parramatta River and Barramattagal people.

The North Queensland Cowboys have released a Defence Jersey for 2024, launched alongside soldiers from the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade at Townsville Field Training Area. The design of the jersey pays homage to the 110th anniversary of the reformation of the Brigade, reformed in 1914, for service during World War I, taking the first steps ashore in the battle at Gallipoli. The jersey is coloured in a distinct earthy tone and depicts soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, during Exercise Brolga Run 23. The photograph was taken in 2023 from the trenches of the Townsville Field Training Area by Lance Corporal Riley Blennerhasset, and with an artistic treatment applied to the shot, the jersey is intended to represent the contribution of each and every soldier; past, present and future, of the Australian Defence Force.

Rounding out our ANZAC Jersey’s for 2024 are the Canberra Raiders, whose camouflage design pays special tribute to the Australian Army. The Raiders believe thew defence force plays an integral role to the continuity of our way of life, and ultimately safeguards the nation for future generations to come. The camouflage design is inspired by the Australian Multicam Camouflage Uniform worn by Defence Force personnel, a darker blue rendition for the Navy, this Khaki edition for the Army, and a light blue for the Air Force. The design for this year also includes the three service colours on the sleeve to pay tribute to those who have, and those who continue to serve in the Australian Defence Force.

The overarching theme of respect, admiration and appreciation of our armed forces is clear in the designs of these jerseys for 2024. This Thursday is about so much more than a few games of football, some two-up in the pub, and a day off. It’s about recognising what a very special group of men and women have done and continue to do for our country. The sacrifices made, and the lives lost in service of our way of life. We will continue to pay our respects and remember those who have given everything for us. Lest we forget.