IT HAD always been a dream of John Mansfield to play the Last Post at the MCG on Anzac Day.
And although Mansfield realised that lifelong ambition this week in front of an empty stadium, instead of the 90,000 silent Collingwood and Essendon supporters that usually fill the ground for the traditional Anzac Day encounter, it was still a goal achieved.
The AFL's annual Anzac Day ceremony will go ahead this year, despite the game's shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the Ode of Remembrance recited and Last Post played by Mansfield – the lone bugler – in a special broadcast to be aired on Saturday.
Set to be shown on AFL.com.au, the AFL Live Official App, and the respective club channels of both Collingwood and Essendon, the ceremony will begin on Saturday at 1pm AEST.
Mansfield, a 20-year member of the Army Reserve after joining in 1990, will watch the special broadcast from home and will long remember the unique occasion.
"It was really quite marvellous," Mansfield told AFL.com.au.
"I was in the Army Reserve for 20 years … and it was one thing that I always wanted to do, play at the Anzac Day commemoration service at the MCG.
"It felt great. It felt like a bucket list thing, if I could use that expression. It's something that I've always wanted to do and never had the opportunity to do it. It was fantastic to be able to do it."
For the first time since the traditional Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon was started in 1995, there will be no game on Saturday due to the global COVID-19 outbreak.
But the ceremony will still proceed. Only this year, it went ahead in front of a completely empty MCG and was not completed in front of normally capacity crowd.
"It was a bit eerie," Mansfield said.
"It's a marvellous stadium. It's a fantastic place to play, because the sound bounces back at you. You've got to be quite aware that it's going to happen.
"It's like playing in the Sanctuary in the Shrine of Remembrance. That's another wonderful place to play, because you just get a great sound and you get a great response to what you do. The effort you put in comes back to you ten-fold."