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When Tom Starling links arms with his teammates and the Last Post echoes across GIO Stadium he will think of the great-grandfather he never got the chance to meet.

William John Starling, known as ‘Snowy’, served in Singapore in World War II and was captured by the Japanese and made a prisoner of war and sent to work on the infamous Burma railway.

Snowy unfortunately never made it home to his family, including Starling’s pop who was just eight years old when his father died at age 35 in Thailand.

And for the 25-year-old Raider, although the connection feels distant, it is when he pulls on the ANZAC jersey and stands proudly as a Starling that he feels closest to his ancestor.

“We’ve had a photo frame of Snowy with his medals hung up in the house ever since I can remember,” Starling told

“I do think of that photo when I stand out there with my teammates and listen to the last post and stand for a minute of silence.

“My great-grandfather’s service has always been something that my family has spoken since I was a young kid about how proud they are of him.

“He went off to war when my Pop was only a young lad so he never really actually knew his dad, but he knew the sacrifice that he gave and often talked to us about him.

William John Starling served in the World War 2/30th Unit of the Australian Infantry Battalion.
William John Starling served in the World War 2/30th Unit of the Australian Infantry Battalion. ©Supplied

“So it's pretty cool to be able to represent my last name in ANZAC round.

“I know it's only a small connection and small part of the Australian history that my last name was in but I'm very grateful I can go out there and represent it in the NRL and be able to live in this great country due to a sacrifice that my great grandfather was a part of.”

Starling has always had very fond memories of April 25, travelling to Sydney from the Central Coast on the train to watch the Dragons and Roosters clash for the traditional ANZAC Day match.

But after getting the opportunity to visit Snowy’s plaque in Thailand as a teenager, the understanding of why we come together to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice really hit home.

“I used to be the kid in the grandstand at these games listening to Last Post and minute silence and watching the Black Hawk helicopter land down in the Sydney Football Stadium,” Starling said.

“But we got an opportunity to go to Thailand and visit his grave as a family and I know it was pretty special for my Dad because I know he's seen the effects that it all had on my Pop, not knowing his dad but knowing he gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“Unfortunately, my pop didn't get the see that my dad made it there, but he, he definitely showed the photos of us all sitting there at his grave to my Nan.

“So that was a pretty special moment for the family to get there and see the Starling last name on a plaque and you know that your great grandfather gave up his life to protect his country.”

Tom Starling (second from right) visiting his great-grandfather's grave in Thailand.
Tom Starling (second from right) visiting his great-grandfather's grave in Thailand. ©Supplied

Despite Sunday’s clash with Cronulla being the fourth year Starling will step onto the field in the most solemn round on the NRL calander, the former Knight said he never gets used to the spine tingles and echoing silence in the moments before the match.

And with a host of young teammates set to experience an ANZAC clash for the first time, Starling said he is excited to share the moment with his new comrades.

“It’s a feeling I don't think you'll ever get over, standing out there with your teammates listening to thee last post before there's dead silence throughout the whole stadium and you just see the respect on everyone’s faces,” he said.

“I don't think anyone will ever take that for granted, but I think it's a special time for the boys that get to experience it for the first time and take it all in.

“It'll be a special day for a lot of people and we only go out there and put a great performance on for the fans, for the service, men and women and, showcase Canberra for what it is.

“It's the capital of Australia and it's pretty special that we get to have an ANZAC Day down here.”

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.