As Big Ben began to chime at 11 o clock, as the two minutes silence began, the lyrics of Brian Wilson from “I Can Hear Music” by The Beach Boys, popped into my head. “The sounds of the city, baby, seem to disappear”. That was what I experienced. I want to share with you what it felt like to be part of this solemn and sacred occasion.

We were standing in the middle of Whitehall. The road had been closed, and this part of London was silent, as representatives of the game of Rugby League, including from the teams competing in the next day’s Challenge Cup Finals, were standing before the Cenotaph, in carefully managed ranks, for the annual Rugby League Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph.

I consider it to be a privilege. Very few ordinary people will stand in a closed off major road in the Centre of London. Normally, it is only Royalty, Senior Politicians, the upper echelons of the military and Veterans who stand here, on Remembrance Sunday.

But the Rugby League family does this every year, the day before our Challenge Cup Final.

We had arrived a few minutes earlier. The Police had already closed the road for us. All was eerily quiet. It was D-Day80 +1  and we were about to stand in solemn remembrance.

The Army Chaplain had announced that two minutes of silence would start as Big Ben began to chime on the hour. The first recognisable chimes began. And then, this strange sensation. It was as though the sounds of the city that you normally expect- the traffic, the conversations, the shouting, the drilling and banging- had  been pushed into the middle distance, leaving us with our thoughts. As the 11 Chimes of the hour sounded, I heard an ambulance siren scream through Parliament Square, as though the sound had been played from the middle of the sea. A helicopter passed overhead, its rotors not chopping, but whispering respectfully.

I stood alongside Lt Col David Groce, Mr Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Martin Offiah MBE, my colleagues from RL Commercial, and the teams from Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves.  I do not know what they were thinking, but the photo shows a number of us with eyes closed, lost in the silence with our thoughts.

I thought of the ordinary men of the Rugby League communities, pulled from their Rugby League pitches, the mines and the factories and sent out to the trenches and fields of the First World War. I thought of the young men and women from our game who had piled ashore on D-Day and achieved extraordinary deeds. I thought of the families who had received the fateful communication of the loss of their loved one and how they ever got over the grief. I thought of the anxiety of those who waited for their loved one to return. I thought of the freedom that I and all of us had to stand in Whitehall and remember.

I also thought of Rub Burrow’s dear family and the grief that they must be experiencing, the feeling of bereftness and loss after Rob’s passing. I thought of my cousin Phil, who had also died of Motor Neurone Disease.

And the sounds of the city seemed to disappear.

We were brought back from our silent thoughts by the Bugler sounding The Last Post. Lt Col Groce next to me snapped into a crisp salute as the familiar mournful notes began. The Last Post is a tune both doom laden and yet inspiring. It evokes frosty, misty mornings on far away battlefields and yet carries a dignity and awe of its own.

Then began the wreath laying. In the silence, all you heard were the military footsteps of the Armed Forces Personnel, as they delivered the wreath to be delivered. Sir Lindsay Hoyle led us forward, myself, Martin Offiah, Frank Slevin and Trevor Hunt for the our wreath laying. I had written the message on the wreath.

May their Souls be bound up in the bonds of eternal peace, with the righteous. May their memory be for an eternal blessing“.

After us, a solemn procession of wreath layers walked up to the Cenotaph, placed their wreath, stepped back, bowed and returned.  Matt Peet (Coach), Liam Farrell (Captain), Mike Danson (Owner) for Wigan Warriors; Stuart Middleton (Chair), Stefan Ratchford (Senior Player) for Warrington Wolves; Representatives of St Helens Women and Leeds Rhinos Women. Wakefield Trinity and Sheffield Eagles, and the RFL Match Officials.

The Chaplain led a prayer service. As I am of the Jewish Faith, I got his permission in advance to silently say my own Hebrew prayers and I wore my Skull cap for that purpose. Then the Bugler sounded the Rouse, and we were jolted back to the City, to our lives and the normality of the day.

No other sport does this. No other sport makes such a point of remembering the sacrifice of those who have gone before them in the way that Rugby League does. And this is recognised by the fact that the Police agree to close the road and we have the freedom to perform our solemn service.

It is a sacred task that we undertake to remember so visibly those who made the ultimate sacrifice from our Rugby League family. But it is an honour  to do so.  It is a privilege to be the steward of this tradition. And a special feeling to be alone with the weight of our thoughts in the middle of the city, as the sounds of the city seemed to disappear.

I Can Hear Music….