Tobe Frank: A nation in mourning

To be frank, I am saddened beyond words at the passing of Phil Hughes. I can’t quote you his batting average nor recount any of his famous innings, but I can tell you he was far too young and far too promising an athlete for this tragic freak accident to claim his life. The circumstances are both completely normal (in that batsmen are hit in the body all the time) and truly unbelievable and devastating. No one deserves to die playing sport…be it for his or her nation, state or local club…and certainly not for doing something for our entertainment.

What I do know is that he was doing what he loved. Hopefully his family will be able to take some solace from the fact that he was out there in the Australian sunshine doing exactly that…what he loved. He had had the absolute privilege of donning the baggy green – one of the rarest commodities in Australian sport.

Hughes, of course is not alone in having paid the ultimate sacrifice on the pitch. Peter Brock, Mike Burgmann and Ashley Cooper all died at the hands of the wheel, doing what they did best: roaring supercharged V8s round a racetrack. The sudden death of Brock rocked us all when we were still reeling from the news of Steve Irwin.

Jason Oliver, one of 311 Australian jockeys who have perished while galloping around the track. I’m not traditionally a race goer, but I do remember the raw emotion of brother Damien, whose win upon Media Puzzle in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, was barely two weeks after his brother’s tragic fall.

And possibly the most tragic, perhaps because of their age, perhaps because of the sport itself, were the deaths of Robert Gatenby, Saxon Bird and Matthew Barclay, who all died competing in the Australian Surf Life Saving championships on the Gold Coast.

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As tragic and devastating as these events are, and no one can begin to understand their family’s sense of loss, I think the best way to reflect on these incidents is to remember that they were doing what they loved. They were chasing a dream, pushing themselves to their limits, fine tuning techniques in the nets, on the waves, behind the wheel or on the back of a beast long after the rest had gone home. It was their life. It’s what they wanted to do.

They didn’t die wondering did they? They were giving it their all and it really should be a timely reminder to us all. Our time on the beautiful planet is finite and we should push ourselves to live each and every day; squeeze every last drop out of it. Should the unthinkable happen then those closest to us can celebrate our life, knowing that we too gave it a mighty fine crack.

In the meantime, it’s going to be a very tough summer for our Aussie cricketers. Let’s all make sure we get behind them – after all the spirit of the ANZAC is founded in diggin’ in when the chips are down.

Rest in Peace Phillip Hughes…thanks for giving it your all.


Share your thoughts and pay your respects for the ones we have lost doing what they love.