Two Bundaberg firefighters will play an emotional game of rugby league in New York on Friday to honour victims of the 2001 September 11 terror attacks.
The commemorative rugby league match between Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) will carry extra significance this year, with the game to be contested in New York City.
After travelling for 23 hours, Bundaberg firefighters Matt Templeman and Dan O’Dempsey are in New York preparing for Friday’s 9-11 Memorial Challenge.
They both said it would be special, no matter the outcome.
“Dan and I have an amazing opportunity to represent QFES for the 9/11 commemorative Rugby League match and also take part in the official 9/11 memorial march and processions,” Matt said.
“This trip has been a dream for many of us since 2010 when the idea first came about to honour the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the horrible events of 9/11.
“It has been a great privilege to be a part of such a great event for the last nine years and now here in New York with the other 22 firefighters and police officers from the Queensland Police Service.”
Matt said it was an honour to represent not only the 2500 firefighters in Queensland, but all firefighters across the world in the 9-11 Memorial Challenge.
Emotional game expected in 9-11 Memorial Challenge
The pair are not only local first-class firefighters, but also play for Brothers Rugby League and hope to do their teams proud as they take to the field on Friday, New York time.
Dan said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to pay their respect to the 343 firefighters who had lost their lives 18 years ago.
Matt said they had finished their final training session and the squad was coming together well.
“The game will be one of the most emotional football games I have been involved in,” Matt said.
“Being in New York, meeting fellow firefighters from the NYFD and visiting Ground Zero has all added to the emotional connection to this particular game.
“There is no doubt we would love to get the win over the QPS and put on a great spectacle for our NYFD and NYPD counterparts, but the main reason we are here is to show the respect, honour and remember the 343 firefighters that paid the ultimate price on 9/11.”
The ninth annual clash between the two teams will take place on Friday, 6 September at Brooklyn’s Aviator Sports and Events Centre ahead of a commemorative march in Manhattan.
Bundaberg firefighters 9-11
QFES Deputy Commissioner Mark Roche said QFES and QPS would battle it out for bragging rights before uniting in mutual respect to honour their fellow first responders during the 9-11 Memorial Challenge.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to continue a meaningful tradition between the two services and showcase our skills and teamwork on an international stage,” Mr Roche said.
“Our firefighters work hard to support and contribute in their local communities, and will display that same level of commitment, enthusiasm and professionalism on the football field too.
“While the match itself is an integral part of the trip, I’m proud that QFES will be represented in the commemorative parade, honouring the 343 firefighters who died on September 11.”
Mr Roche said the team was expecting a fired-up Police outfit which would be keen for redemption after last year’s draw.
“We have won five of the last eight encounters against QPS and both sides will be looking to make amends after the tight tussle in 2018,” he said.
“It’s fantastic so see firefighters from different stations and regions around the state come together to achieve a common goal.
“There is plenty of experience and talent in our side, with three former NRL players and I’m optimistic the Firies can notch another win against their fierce rivals.”
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