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College Rifles pays touching tribute to fallen Anzac heroes with commemorative jersey


College Rifles rugby club's 2017 commemorative Anzac jersey, worn by the premier men's team on the 100th anniversary of losing soldiers in World War I.

An Auckland rugby club has continued a touching tradition that pays homage to players who died in World War I.

On Saturday afternoon, College Rifles' premier men ran out onto their home ground in Remuera with the 2017 instalment of their Anzac commemorative jersey.

The jersey featured names of both soldiers and battles from 1917 as the club remembered events that took place 100 years ago.

Each year, since 2014, the club has worn a different commemorative jersey on the weekend before Anzac Day. Each jersey marks battles that took place 100 years earlier and the soldiers who lost their lives.

This year, they honoured the Battle of Messines, Battle of Passchendaele, Battle of Broodseinde, Battle of Ayun Kara, and the Polderhoek Attack.

College Rifles lost 17 members through those battles.

General manager of the club Keith Ratcliffe said it's a tradition that's not lost on the players, and the whole day takes things well beyond just a game of rugby.

"One of the boys nearly cried because he got injured and couldn't play this particular game," Ratcliffe said.

"It just means that much to them.

"They are getting far more aware of what it means, especially to the club."

College Rifles haven't lost a game in each of their four commemorative jerseys, with next year's 2018 edition due to be the last with the war ending in 1918.

Head coach John Clough said that achievement, and the pressure of the occasion is something he embraced with his team.

"We all recognise and enjoy the history of the jersey and the club," Clough said.

Rifles lost 54 men during World War I. In fact, the club temporarily shut down because it didn't have enough numbers to field teams, due to the 314 away on duty.

When the club re-established a premier team in 1919, they won the Auckland competition.

And they topped off Saturday's Anzac match with an impressive 60-10 win over Papatoetoe to retain the Fred Allen Trophy.

Clough said it was a result which signified where the team was heading this season.

"We've worked really hard, and I wouldn't say the result was simply good fortune," Clough said.

Elsewhere in the Auckland Rugby premier competition, University weathered a tough Ponsonby outfit to win 20-12.

Meanwhile Grammar TEC remained undefeated with their 29-19 win over Waitakere.