Year in, year out, Anzac Day brings a special kind of emotion to the Dragons and Roosters' clash.  Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Year in, year out, Anzac Day brings a special kind of emotion to the Dragons and Roosters' clash. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Anasta: savour the emotion of Anzac Day clashes

THERE'S a date on the rugby league calendar that fans circle each and every year - April 25, Anzac Day.

Anzac Day has far more significance and is far more important than any game of rugby league, but it's also one of the NRL's marquee days.

If you ask anyone who has played for the Sydney Roosters or the St George Illawarra Dragons, they will tell you that it's the biggest game of the year outside of the finals.

I remember when I was at the Bulldogs being jealous of the Roosters and Dragons players who got to play every Anzac Day.

When I joined the Roosters in 2006 the Anzac Day clash was the first one I circled.

In recent years the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors have also clashed on Anzac Day, and today they'll get the chance to go toe-to-toe again.

The emotion you feel standing with your teammates as the Last Post and National Anthem are played is something that can't be put into words, but it remains on display during the game.

Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons

Where it's won: the battle through the middle will be crucial to the outcome of this match. The Roosters have got plenty of strike power out wide and if their forwards can win the battle up front, James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell have the ability to cut the Dragons to shreds.

The same can be said for the Dragons - if their pack can dominate the middle third, and lay a platform for Hunt, Norman and Dufty to play off, it could be a long afternoon for the Roosters.

Key match-up: no surprises here - in this one it's the big men.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho will have their work cut out against the Dragons' pairing of James Graham and  Paul Vaughan.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor and the much-improved Paul Vaughan have plenty of reasons to be happy. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Dragons coach Paul McGregor and the much-improved Paul Vaughan have plenty of reasons to be happy. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Vaughan's form this year has been first class. He's always been a consistent performer, but he's gone to another level since making his Origin debut last year.

Tip: The Dragons have a really good record in this clash and the loss of Keary is a massive blow for the Roosters, but it's hard to deny the form the Roosters are in at the moment.

The Roosters have game-breakers right across the park and I'm tipping Cronk to steer them home in another Anzac Day thriller.

Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors

Where it's won: for the Warriors to have any chance of pulling off an upset, they have to control the Storm pack in the middle third of the field.

Cameron Smith is without doubt the best player in the game at controlling the ruck speed and if the Warriors allow the Storm to get a roll-on through the middle with quick play-the-balls, they'll be in all sorts of trouble.

The Warriors have one of the biggest and most powerful packs in the competition and they need their big men to stand up and win the opening 20 minutes of the contest and lay a platform for Issac Luke to play off.

Key match-up: the battle of the No.9s is an intriguing one.

Cameron Smith's importance to the Storm cannot be underestimated. Picture: AAP
Cameron Smith's importance to the Storm cannot be underestimated. Picture: AAP

Smith is a master at controlling the speed of a game from dummy half. He knows when to run and when to stand and deliver, while the Warriors look like a totally different attacking outfit when Luke is out there.

Luke's opening 25 minutes last weekend against the Cowboys was brilliant and the Warriors will need him at his scheming best.

Tip: It's hard to go against the Storm at home. They'll be smarting, and up for the occasion, after a golden-point loss to the Roosters last weekend. Storm by 10.

Don't miss the Anzac Day double-header LIVE, ad-break free during play and in HD on FOX LEAGUE and streamed on Foxtel Now. Sign up now at Foxtel dot com dot au.

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