On Anzac Day our nation will pause to remember the brave men and women who fought for our country to protect our precious way of life and the many freedoms we now enjoy.
One of the most important days on our calendar, April 25 marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the first World War. That fateful day in Gallipoli left a powerful legacy - an “Anzac legend” that is now part of our national pride and has helped to shape our identity.
For AFL fans Anzac Day has also become one of the biggest feature events on the footy fixture.
The annual blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon pays tribute to the sacrifice of the servicemen and women of Australia and celebrates the Anzac spirit – courage, sacrifice, endurance and mateship.
But the footy action won’t just be isolated to the magnificent hallowed turf of the MCG. At this time of year footy games are being played across the country on sporting fields and in backyards everyday and at Coolabah Turf we are passionate about this treasured past time.
It’s why we love what we do and it’s what motivates us to continue developing and delivering the highest quality instant turf to backyards all over Australia.
Our backyards are the breeding ground for home-grown sporting heroes and there is no better way for kids to grow up than rolling around on the lawn, kicking a footy, hitting a bat or tossing a ball.
It’s where many take their first wobbly steps, where they stumble and fall and where they learn to get back up again.
It’s where you learn to dodge the hills hoist, jump over the sprinkler, avoid the bindi patch and wrestle the dog.
It’s also where you learn problem-solving skills, build courage and confidence and create lifelong memories.
Our long-time turf buddy, Lawn Solutions Australia brand ambassador and Better Homes and Gardens resident landscaper, Jason Hodges explained it perfectly when he said “the great Aussie backyard is the dance floor of life for every kid growing up in Australia – where they learn resilience, life skills, and ball skills”.
"I learnt more in my backyard than I ever did in any classroom... it’s where you learn to play cricket, golf, take your first catch, first kick, learn to wrestle and to just reboot from our busy lives," Hodges said.
“There is nothing more affordable and more amazing than a simple lawn landscape in your own backyard,’’ he said.
For Echuca Moama’s home-grown AFL legend Andrew Walker this couldn’t be closer to the truth.
A former Carlton player and current Echuca Murray Bombers Coach, Andrew has many fond memories of growing up in the country and playing with his older sister Mel and older brother Ben in the backyard.
“In the early days Ben, Mel and I attended a school in the centre of Echuca where there was no grass and no footy oval,” Andrew said.
“Benny and I would come home from school with bunged up knees and grazed elbows after trying to lay a tackle or take a 'specky' on the asphalt and we just couldn't wait to get in the backyard and play on the safety of the grass.”
“One of my favourite memories of playing footy at home was when Benny and I flooded the backyard so we could play in wet weather conditions! Even the dog joined in on the action!”
“When we were a bit older our family moved out to Echuca Village on a large block and Benny and I built a full footy oval on 2.5 acres using gum trees as goal posts.”
“We’d spend hours out there and with just the two, or three of us in the game it kept us pretty fit.”
“Now when I take my three kids there they run around doing the same thing, with our Border Collie in tow and it’s like history repeating itself.”
“I just love watching the kids being kids - playing outside, with no devices.”
“It’s part of the reason we moved back to Echuca Moama, and we’ve just purchased some acreage ourselves, so our kids can experience the same carefree childhood that we did.”
“Growing up as a country boy, with older siblings to knock me around and put me back in my place definitely taught me to be more resilient and helped to put me in good stead for my football career.”
“In my experience kids in the country are tougher than in the city. I think even I’ve softened up after spending so much time in the Melbourne! I watch my kids running around on gravel in bare feet and no shirt without a care in the world while I have to go and put shoes and a jumper on!”
For Andrew it’s the little life lessons, like how to walk barefoot in the bush, how to build a treehouse and how to beat your older brother in a game of backyard footy, that make a big difference to how you show up in the world.
They are lessons that start in the backyard but can be applied to all areas of your sporting and personal life.
This Anzac Day Andrew, like so many other Australians, will be watching the footy with his friends and family, having a kick with his kids in the backyard at half-time and feeling grateful for the lifestyle he enjoys thanks to the sacrifices made by those brave war heroes.
“Growing up I guess I didn’t really appreciate the significance of Anzac Day but after playing at Carlton and spending time listening to some of the great coaches like Mick Malthouse, Brett Ratten and Brendan Bolton you start to see some correlations between war and footy,” he says.
“You can’t compare the bravery and sacrifice those young people made for us to live like we do today, but the Anzac spirit of courage, mateship and commitment are values we try to play with.”
“The way we prepared for a game was very much like heading into battle, in fact in many ways we were probably more mentally and physically prepared than most soldiers.”
“I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be sent off to war with a gun in your hand. I have the utmost respect for those that came home and my heart goes out to the families of those that didn’t.”