Who will top the Australian conference?
With three Australian teams in a position to qualify for the finals, it's a very good sign for Australian rugby.PT4M31S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-376mz 620 349 April 24, 2014
Pint-sized ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White will give away a 50-kilogram weight advantage to throw himself in front of rampaging giant Ben Tameifuna at Canberra Stadium on Friday.
But as he stands in front of the 137 kilogram Waikato Chiefs prop, White knows on-field courage is nothing compared to what Sapper Curtis McGrath went through for Australia.
McGrath gave the Brumbies some last-minute grand-final re-match inspiration on Thursday.
Brumbies player Nic White was one of four players involved in a wreath laying ceremony ahead of their Anzac Day match. Photo: Graham Tidy
If the memory of losing the grand final to the Chiefs eight months ago wasn't enough, McGrath's words certainly hit home as he told his story of losing both of his legs in Afghanistan.
McGrath, a combat engineer, stepped on an improvised explosive device, while serving in August 2012.
His legs were "blown clean off" by the bomb planted by the Taliban near an unoccupied police checkpoint.
McGrath was lucky to escape with his life, he spent three months in hospital and it took him 10 days to learn to walk with his new prosthetic legs.
So when White and the Brumbies run on to Canberra Stadium to play the Chiefs and aim for championship redemption, they know their sacrifices are minimal compared to the life of a soldier.
White went to the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial at 4am on Friday, 12 hours before kick-off against the Chiefs.
His grandfather served in the defence forces and White marched every year as a child in Scone.
"But anyone at the game needs to remember exactly what the day is about - remembering what the Anzacs have done for Australia, the freedom they fought for," White said.
"When the Last Post plays, you're thinking about the soldiers. There's always a soldier who has a story of going away to fight for your freedom, that sits with you. They're the courageous ones, it puts everything in perspective."
The Brumbies' "soldier with a story" joined them at training on Thursday.
McGrath, who is training in canoe for the 2016 Paralympics, gave the players their jerseys before the last training session of the week and spoke of his experiences.
"I told my story to the [Brumbies players]. If someone can get inspiration out of my story, that's great. It's about taking away what you like and if you feel inspired, then great," McGrath said.
Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said his words resonated with the players and hit home the meaning and tradition of Anzac Day.
"These guys are sacrificing themselves every day ... we just go out and put our bodies on the line for 80 minutes," Fisher said.
"It is inspirational to have an understanding of what people continue to do."
The Anzac Day traditions add to what looms as a massive Super Rugby contest after the Brumbies suffered a heartbreaking 27-22 loss to the Chiefs in the final last year.
The Brumbies will soak up the Anzac spirit for their grand final rematch against the Chiefs.
The Last Post will be played before kick-off and Corporal Mark Donaldson, one of four Victoria Cross recipients attending the match, will read the Ode.
The crowd is free to play two up and while there will be no official Australian and New Zealand national anthems, Brumbies supporter group the rUCkus crew plans to sing both before kick-off.
White is reluctant to speak about his family's involvement in the defence forces.
"I went to the dawn service in Canberra for the first time last year. I know guys have their rituals on game day, but for one game of the year it's worth throwing it out of whack and worrying about rugby later in the day," White said.
"I think rugby can do an Anzac Day game and do it classy. Just playing a game isn't enough. I'd love to see us build a partnership with the military and pay our respects."
Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen's grandfather served in the army and Mowen used to march with him on Anzac Day.
"If you're a Kiwi or Australian, it's a pretty special day and there's a lot on the table for both sides," Mowen said.
"This is a great challenge for us. To get the responsibility and privilege to play an Anzac Day isn't lost on the group; we're excited about performing."
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said: "It's an important day for all Australians. We're very lucky to be playing a game on Anzac Day. Does it add to the occasion? I think there's a fair bit in the match already with the best New Zealand team playing the best Australian team.
"But it's definitely going to be a moving experience."