Coffs Coast football rivals unite to honour ANZAC heroes

Football rivals united together alongside serving soldier Levi Bannerman and veteran Garry Heskett from the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-Branch.

ANZAC Day served as a poignant moment for the Northern Storm and Coffs City United football clubs, as they came together to honour those who served Australia and New Zealand during World War One.

The ANZAC Cup had its origins in 2021 when two proud coaches – Craig Caruana of Northern Storm and Glen Williams of Coffs City United – united the football community in paying respect to the troops who had bravely served their countries.

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Last Saturday, the teams walked onto the pitch at Korora, led by current servicemen Levi Bannerman, veteran soldier Garry Heskett from the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-Branch, and referee Jason Hillier.

Mr Heskett shared words of reflection and mateship, culminating in a poignant moment when he asked the large crowd to greet the person standing next to them with a simple ‘G’day mate’ in the ANZAC spirit.

The silence that followed was profound as the Last Post reverberated across the ground, and a minute’s silence was observed.

Northern Storm coach Craig Caruana reflected on the serendipitous evolution of the ANZAC Cup.

“The ANZAC Cup came about after some discussions between Glen Williams (Coffs City United coach) and myself back in 2021,” he said.

“We were drawn against each other early in the season three years in a row and were talking about the upcoming ANZAC Day ceremonies in town and how it would be good to honour the ANZACs by having an annual game on ANZAC Day.

“Willow (Glen Williams) and I then got talking with North Coast Football and at the time Mid Coast Football (CPL), and the local RSL branch about the first round match between Coffs United and Northern Storm always being played on ANZAC Day or the ANZAC Day weekend and becoming an annual event.”

ANZAC Day commemorates the anniversary when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the beaches in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 as part of the Allies’ invasion.

The ANZAC Cup serves as an opportunity for one generation of the football community to pass on the day of remembrance to the next generation of young footballers.

“ANZAC Day is the one day of the year where we stop and reflect on the way of life we have and on those who served to protect it.

“It is an important day to us personally and we wanted to help introduce a new generation to the ANZAC spirit.

“Everyone steps up for this event; Eric McCarthy with his donation to produce the one off shirts each year, and the organising efforts of Steve Douglas each year show how everyone in the clubs is contributing to make the cup a successful event.

“The cup has been played since 2022 alternating between Coffs United and Northern Storm hosting the game and we are hoping that the tradition is continued for a long time to come,” Caruana said.


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