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ANZAC Spirit flows through Starling’s veins

ANZAC Round holds special significance for Raiders hooker Tom Starling and his family.

Tom’s Great Grandfather, William John Starling, known as ‘Snow’, served in World War II in the 2/30th Unit of the Australian Infantry Battalion with the Australian Army.

William, from Parramatta in Western Sydney, was sent to Singapore and was captured by the Japanese and made a prisoner of war.

William John 'Snow' Starling.
William John 'Snow' Starling.

William was sent to work by the Japanese on the infamous Burma railway, sometimes known as the Thai-Burma Railway and The Death Railway. Built by the Japanese Empire to support their forces in the Burma campaign during World War II, this 415kms of railway was the scene of suffering, heroism, courage and legend. It included such infamous places as Hellfire Pass and the Bridge on the River Kwai. Of the 61,000 Allied soldiers who were held prisoner and forced to work on the railway, over 12,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“My great grandfather was captured on the 15th February in 1942 and was put to work on the Burma Railway by the Japanese,” Starling said.

“Unfortunately, he passed away on the same date two years later. He was 35 years old.”

“My pop was eight years old when he found out that his dad (William) died.”

“Snow’s grave is in Thailand and my uncle got married over there years ago and we were lucky enough as a family to go and visit so we went to see his grave and it was really nice to see.”

Tom Starling (second from right) and his family visiting William John Starling's grave in Thailand.
Tom Starling (second from right) and his family visiting William John Starling's grave in Thailand.

“For me and my family, ANZAC Day is a huge occasion.”

“When I was younger I used to live in Sydney and I used to jump on a train with my dad and his friends and we used to go to the Roosters v Dragons match on ANZAC Day.”

“Seeing all the tributes before the game to the ANZACs was pretty cool and the matches were always packed out.”

“ANZAC Day has always been one of the biggest days of the year for my family. I remember as a kid we used to watch documentaries on the sacrifices that they used to go through. The sacrifices that these men and women made were really drilled into me as a young child.  I will not forget.”

Saturday's match against the Cowboys will be the first time in his NRL career where Starling features in an ANZAC Round match and the young hooker is excited about the prospect.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of an ANZAC game now, I’m really looking forward to it and it will be great to represent my family out there on the field and the history that we have with my Great Grandfather.”

William John Starling's grave in Thailand.
William John Starling's grave in Thailand.

‘Age shall not weary them

Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning,

We shall remember them.’

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.