Last week, the NSW Coroner’s Court began the inquest into the tragic death of Phil Hughes.
It’s almost two years since the 25-year-old Macksville-born batsman was struck on the back of the neck batting for South Australia against his former state of NSW. He died in hospital two days later, sending the cricketing world into mourning.
As a park cricketer, I have vivid memories of the following weekend. It was an eerie feeling mirrored across Australia and the world, with black armbands and a minute of silence for a young life cut short.
The tension was broken early in the day when the first bouncer sailed harmlessly through to the keeper as had happened so many times before and since.
What happened to Phil Hughes was a tragic accident. So much happened in such a short amount of time to give a normal ball such a horrifying result. It was a moment that turned his family’s life upside down, but has also had lasting effects on the entire sporting community, from the lowest grassroots level to elite international competition.
However, the inquest seems to be searching for someone to blame.
Whether its helmet manufacturers, Sean Abbott who delivered the fateful ball, NSW tactics that were alleged to have been focused on short-pitched bowling or a comment from Doug Bollinger that falls on the milder end of sledges heard around Australian sporting fields on a weekly basis, prosecutors appear to be looking for evidence that it was more than just a horrible accident.
Finding a villain does not bring back Phil Hughes; all it does is destroy reputations and reopen old wounds. Reading Sean Abbott’s statement last week shows it is something that lives with a young man, a cricketer who was only doing his job and had a regrettable part to play in one of the worst moments in sporting history.
Thinking back to the weekend after Phil Hughes’ death, I remember reflecting on the fragility of life and how a freak accident at any time could cut any life short. While it was sad at the time, and still is now, it’s not worth tarnishing his memory in order to blame someone for a freak accident.
- Andrew McMurtry is Fairfax’s north west Sydney sports journalist, covering the Blacktown Sun, Hills News, Parramatta Sun, Rouse Hill Courier and St Marys-Mount Druitt Star. Share your sports stories with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.