By Tony Webeck (NRL.com)
Playing on Anzac Day is nothing new to Russell Packer but the former Warrior says he is excited to share in the great tradition that is the annual Dragons-Roosters clash at Allianz Stadium next Monday.
Packer played in Anzac Day games for the Warriors against the Storm on five occasions and although this will be his first for the Red V he has already been made aware of the significance of the occasion.
Monday represents the 15th meeting of the Dragons and Roosters on arguably our most treasured national day as we honour those who have served Australia and New Zealand in war and those men and women who continue to serve in our defence force.
The Dragons-Roosters clash will once again serve as the centrepiece of NRL celebrations that will also see games played in Newcastle and Melbourne and on the back of their win over the Titans on Sunday Packer is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to soak up what is always a great occasion.
"Obviously there's a lot of significance with the Anzacs, the combination of our two countries and Army Corps fighting," said Packer, a two-time Kiwi international.
"I've played in a few games against Melbourne on Anzac Day in Melbourne and those have been great occasions, to honour the sacrifices of those men and women that have fought for your country.
"It's a good way to pay respect to those people and I'm looking forward to being a part of this club's Anzac Day against the Roosters.
"I know from being at the club that there's a lot of significance and it's a big rivalry. I'm excited to be a part of it, I can't wait.
"It's going to be a big occasion coming off a win and they had a win last week too so they'll be looking to keep winning as well."
The likes of Tim Lafai, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Josh McCrone are all in line to play in their first Anzac Day game (Dunamis Lui and Siliva Havili played on Anzac Day for their previous clubs) and Packer’s advice was to embrace the emotion that surrounds the week.
"It's been a while since I have played in an Anzac game but it's one of those things where it's part of the build-up to the game," he told NRL.com after running for 177 metres from 18 carries off the bench against the Titans.
"You've got to embrace it, be a part of it, take a bit of time and let it sink in but you've still got to prepare to play a game of rugby league. You have to check your emotions and go back to the processes and think about the game plan and what not.
"The games I've played in in the past we've gone through the ceremonial things and then we've had a five-minute time to warm up again and switch back into game mode.
"I'm excited to be part of a great occasion and something that honours our servicemen and women."
With a 9-5 winning record against the Roosters on Anzac Day last weekend’s win over the Titans was well-timed in terms of confidence and belief.
Thanks largely to an inspirational captain’s performance from Gareth Widdop the Dragons were able to post three first-half tries on the Gold Coast and keep the home side at arm’s length throughout the second half, resulting in a vastly different mood in the sheds afterwards after a tough previous two weeks in Queensland.
"Massive difference. Obviously you go higher on the ladder but I think especially in the circumstances of having two quite comprehensive losses back to back and not scoring any points, it's a great confidence builder," Packer said.
"It's a great win for the club and it's a game that we can build off. Obviously we weren't perfect and we have a lot of room for improvement but the main thing is we're talking about this after winning.
"You're a little bit happier when you win, even social sport, you win you feel a bit happier, it's a natural reaction. Hopefully we can build a bit of momentum going into these next few weeks."