A Cricket Tragedy Unites a Nation

5th December 2014

I've been trying to work out why the death of one of our Aussie cricketers has had such an effect on not only our nation, but also world sport. I think it was the shock of seeing the incident on TV of such an unexpected event in cricket, no one expects people to die during a cricket match. During the Bodyline series players got hit on the head without helmets and no-one died. I even saw the great Ricky Ponting get hit flush on the jaw by a Mohammed Sami bouncer and he played on. I just never thought it could happen. Maybe it was seeing our great cricket heroes being so upset by their mate going down and the fact that it was Michael Clarke's best little mate. What I do know is that it has brought out the best in our nation and world sport, not only in sympathy for Phil and his family, but also in the support for the bowler Sean Abbott.

Sport is great in so many ways, teaching you about fair play, respect, teamwork, that there's other people beside yourself in the world, and that life isn't always fair. Well in the past few weeks we've seen the worst side of sport  - where a young, talented and good man died way too early and the best side of sport where a nation and world sport has thrown their arms around our upset cricketers. Our captain has also stood tall and been a rock of support and a true leader to the Hughes family, Sean Abbott and his cricketing nation.

In sport you play with and meet many fantastic people. A mate of mine from Sydney Uni Cricket Club, who I played with over 25 years ago, bowled a bouncer whilst playing cricket in Canada. He was only a medium pacer, not particularly quick, but unfortunately it killed his opponent on the spot. He was as nice a bloke as you would meet, and according to his mates never played cricket again, nor was he quite the same. I am hoping the outpouring of support for Sean Abbott demonstrates to my mate that there is no blame, and gives him some more peace.

In my experience, the best way forward is to start playing cricket again ASAP and the healing process will begin. I say this as around 3 years ago my best mate from school was savagely struck down and brutalized by a very aggressive bowel cancer and he ended up dying well before his time. I gave the eulogy at his funeral and what I realised is that I didn’t feel like drowning my sorrows in alcohol, as is the custom and what happening at the wake. Instead there was the Wanda surf life saving Carnival the next morning, my own surf club’s annual interclub carnival, where many of my athletes and friends would be. I went home early and raced the next morning at the carnival. I still remember marshaling at the start line next to my Club mates and athletes, who were all in great spirits on a beautiful sunny day. The race and the morning was the best thing for me, it took my mind of things, but also allowed me to think about Ken while I raced and run out all my anger and sadness that he was gone.

My wife took this photo of all the competitors waiting in marshaling and it is still one of my favorites, as it always reminds me of Ken, but it also reminds me of how great therapy getting straight back into sport with some of my great friends was for me. It’s also what Ken would have wanted me to do and I have no doubt getting back to playing cricket is exactly what Phil Hughes would have wanted his mates to do. Great respect has been shown towards Phil and his family and now the first Test against India in Adelaide will demonstrate this even more.