RSL says sport must consider Anzac role

A general view during the pre match ceremony during the 2018 AFL round five ANZAC Day match between Collingwood and Essendon. Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images

On the first Anzac Day without AFL football since 1995, RSL national president Greg Melick hopes the occasion will lead to an adjustment of priorities on the day in the future.

The April 25 match between Essendon and Collingwood, and the Anzac Day ceremony before it, has become one of the biggest occasions on the AFL calendar.

Meanwhile in the NRL, St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters play during the day, with Melbourne and the Warriors playing that night.

"Sport's been important, I just think we've got to keep the balance right," Melick told ABC Grandstand radio.

"My view is always that Anzac Day is a very solemn day.

"It's a day where we commemorate the service given by our veterans past and present and I worry at times that there's too much emphasis placed on the sport and not enough on the rationale and the reasons we have Anzac Day."

Earlier this week, the AFL pre-recorded an Anzac Day ceremony at the MCG.

Dr Robert Webster OAM, the state president of the Victorian RSL, recited the Ode of Remembrance, while bugler John Mansfield played the Last Post in the middle of an empty MCG.

The vision was aired by broadcasters and on the AFL's website at 1pm on Saturday.

"I thought the lone bugler on the MCG was a very poignant sight," Melick said.

"I think sometimes less can be more."

The Anzac Day AFL match typically has crowds in excess of 90,000, with hundreds of thousands more watching the ceremony, then the game, on television.

Melick said the game had brought the messages of Anzac Day to more younger Australians, while many veterans appreciated the support and recognition that came with sports - but said focus on sports should be left for the afternoon.

"One advantage of sport being involved in Anzac Day is a lot of younger Australians who wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to the concept of Anzac Day become exposed," he said.

"But I do know that quite a few members of the RSL are concerned by what they see as intrusion of sport on Anzac Day, particularly when all the lead-up to the sport is occurring about the same time as all the traditional ceremonies occur.

"So if we're going to have sport on Anzac Day - and it obviously will continue because a lot of service people really like it - I'd like to see it really cemented in the second half of the day and leave the first half of the day for the traditional Anzac Day commemorations."