Cricket. It’s child’s play.

“If we had them (children), we would want them as children, and would love the wonder with which they behold the world, and would hope some of it might open our eyes a little. We would love their games, and would want to play them once in a while, stirring in ourselves those memories of play that no one regrets, and that are almost the only things an old man can look back on with complete satisfaction.”


Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child – Anthony Esolen.



There was a fabulous news item on our TV sets the other night involving a visit by our men’s cricket Test team to Kirribilli House to meet and greet Prime Minister Turnbull. As the players, favoured media, and officials gathered around and guffawed and chortled at the quick wit and repartee of our country’s leader whilst nibbling at hors d’oeuvres of gently poached turkey breast, smashed avocado and quail eggs, a wonderful thing was happening in the background. Children were freely playing.


Out the back of Kirribilli House are some frightfully manicured lawns that form curved mounds which slope gently towards an impossibly beautiful Sydney Harbour beachfront below. They are like stationary, green waves; a perfect playground seemingly designed for one thing. To be rolled down! So, they did. The giggling and laughing and sheer joy of doing something as simple as rolling down a grass mound was refreshing to see.


Then something magnificent happened. Steve Smith, the Australian captain, who was (un)happily engaged in deep conversation with “government officials” and the GG, glanced over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of what the kids were doing. A little smile attached itself to his lips. He watched for some seconds, completely distracted. The GG, who seems like a mighty good bloke, was holding a beer on that superbly Aussie angle; the 45, and followed Smith’s gaze. He took in the same sight as Smith. And he also did something he hadn’t done all day; genuinely beamed.


They both looked back into the circle of conversation together, simultaneously, and caught each other’s grin. Smith tilted his head towards the kids and raised his eyebrows. The GG nodded. Politely, they placed their freshly squeezed orange juices onto the table and casually sauntered over to the grass area.


“I’m the GG” said the GG, “it wouldn’t be correct behaviour if I were to go first.”


Smith agreed. He took off his green blazer, gently placed it down at the top of the tall grass mounds and waited for the kids to get back to the top of their run.


“Can I play?” he asked.


“Yeeeah” they all chorused joyfully.


So, Smith lay down on the grass across the top of the highest bank, his torso stretched out straight, his arms tucked into his side, and began rolling down the slopes. He giggled out loud. He couldn’t help himself. Seeing his delight the GG promptly followed. They rolled and rolled until, eventually, giddiness and a fear that they might actually end up in Sydney Harbour, prevented them from rolling further. They both lay on the grass for a few moments, surrounded by squealing children who had come tumbling down the rise after them.


“Again?” shrieked one of the kids.


“Sure” said Smith.


“Not for me” said the GG, “I’m too old to have that much fun twice.”


But Smith ran to the top of the slopes again, as if he were scampering between wickets at the MCG, and joined the kids in another horizontal descent down the slopes.


All this activity got the attention of those in attendance at the PM’s soiree. People began clapping and cheering. Other cricketers put their drinks down and began rolling down the hills. The PM stood back and straightened his superbly ironed casual shirt. It was exuberant, festive chaos.


The newshounds looked at each other perplexed. This was supposed to be a slam dunk day. The news was easy; PM and GG chatting with Steve Smith and Co., few snaps, bit of footage of them all laughing. Job done. Now this!


“What are they doing?” asked one journo desperately.


“Playing?” said another.


“OK so what’s the story here?”


They all stood and peered at their feet. Finally, one came up with the solution.


“Just ignore it!” she said.


They all agreed.




When I’m dozing on my couch on a summer’s afternoon I close the blinds because the windows face west and the sun can bake a sleeping face in minutes. But when the sun hits a certain spot it manages to angle past the closed blinds in a shaft of light like those designed by the ancient Egyptians into the Pharaohs’ tombs. It so happens that this shaft of light lands on the eyelids of the snoozing adult and wakes them. And so, I awoke.


I shot a look at the TV expecting to see Steve Smith rolling down the grass hills at Kirribilli. But, alas, he wasn’t. Neither was the GG. They were standing in a circle with cool drinks in hand and conducting a conversation with Malcolm Turnbull that might have been about the Australian Republic. Or not. And an earnest young reporter stood there with microphone in hand and petrified hair and told us what we needed to know. I still don’t know anything about Hilton Cartwright.


But in the background I could see them. Tomorrow’s leaders. Kids, of all shapes and sizes, enthralled in a game of their own making and I wished my little mid-afternoon reverie was real.



More on kids and play in Play On (named  for good reason) by John Harms. Read more.

.Play On front cover final

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Such is the nature of wishful thinking I was hoping for the very best (I wouldn’t put it past either of the characters described) for a long time. The beam of light is a classic. Does it catch the dust particles suspended in the Kew air? You could also consult to the War Memorial.

    I also agree with your premise: never underestimate the value of play. I have always tried to live a dolphin’s life, not always too successfully.

  2. Bravo, old mate. Great stuff.

  3. A lovely tonic Dips.
    Free the child. Find your soul.

  4. You had me for a bit there Dips. I so wanted it to be true.
    Made me think of the Disraeli barb (paraphrased) – when asked the difference between a disaster and a calamity he said “If Mr Turnbull fell into Sydney Harbour, that would be a disaster. If someone pulled him out, that would be a calamity.”

  5. Just beautiful Dips. Spot on. How do we lose the magic? Why? Play is the essence of being. Your piece is a warm welcome to a year that may need many, many uplifting stories. Cheers

  6. JTH – a dolphin’s life. What a great concept. I was surfing this morning but we had our eyes open for another sea dwelling, large toothed, aggressive enemy of the dolphin. A shark to a dolphin is like a bureaucrat to a taxpayer!

    And the beam of light does catch dust particles suspended in the air. But I reckon we had heaps more of those particles when growing up in our little house in Montmorency. Probably because the house had 8 people in it, and because the gum trees sucked the moisture out of the soil, meaning it dried out and sent dust off into the air. Our house was often like one of those toy snow domes.

    PB – Turnbull is way down the list of this country’s problems. He’s just a brick in the wall. Nothing.

    Cheers RK, Tess and Smoke. Yes I’m hoping 2017 is a slower, easier, more childish year.

  7. John Butler says

    Happy New Year Dips!

  8. Well played,Dips well played indeed

  9. There’s a great quote from G.K. Chesterton that introduces Rick Telander’s “Heaven is a Playground”: “…It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”

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