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Standing together, while apart as the Last Post fills the MCG

Maisie, his younger sister, was 29. She died just before her 96th birthday remembering Tom every step of the 65 years she spent without him.

It’s not only that alphabetical coincidence that leaps into my mind on Anzac Day every year when standing for the Last Post, normally at the MCG, with its potent mix of football, family and memory.

It’s the lasting effect on millions that wars have, shaping families and lives.

Tom Brislane, who was killed aged 31.

Tom Brislane, who was killed aged 31.

Since 1995, when the RSL and the AFL joined together to add extra reverence to the occasion, football fans have been able to reflect on that connection, while celebrating the sacrifice made by the services.

When speaking about his late father, Ronald Dale made this observation: “I think we should feel hurt to think people are being killed defending you. War is a shocking, tearful, awful waste of people’s efforts and lives. When they die, a shock comes to mothers and fathers and husbands and wives.”

Barassi, either via a withering burst or when speaking in a more reflective manner, has always seemed to get it just right.

This year, Anzac Day is so different because of the government restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

There was no football, but the respect for the day remained as strong as ever. It doesn’t need a grand event to have meaning.

At 6am, many of us stood on the footpath or in our driveway, in darkness, with a candle or a torch to listen, to reflect quietly. It was a moment the community could spend together, while apart.

At 1pm, this time via television or a computer or a phone, we watched a lone bugler, John Mansfield, stand in the cavernous, empty MCG and play the Last Post while the RSL Victoria president Dr Robert Webster delivered the Ode of Remembrance.

It wasn’t the same, but it was just as penetrating, a reminder that what we are missing right now is nothing compared to what many generations have missed forever.

The 76-year-old Mansfield, who played the bugle with emotion, said it was an eerie feeling to stand in the centre circle without a crowd as the sound echoed around the empty seats.

But he found the right note when asked to explain what playing the Last Post meant to him.

“It’s very poignant,” Mansfield said. “I always try to play with feeling. It is an honour and a privilege to do this.”

That feeling was in the air, whether you’re remembering Ron Barassi or Tom Brislane or John Cox or Bryan Foster or Robert Gilbert or George Hall or Walter Summers or Lewie Tardrew, all killed in action, all memorialised in this paper on August 9, 1941.

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