Sport, Team and Memory

The first rule of this week is that you don’t try to make sense of it. It doesn’t make sense.

How could someone so young, so full of life, be taken away doing what he loved? How could it happen as he appeared on the cusp of a sporting career rebirth? How could all the most unlikely one-in-million shots line-up so awfully?

There are no answers to these questions so perhaps the only way to deal is through the outpouring that has occurred.

Unlike so much of social media that is rooted in narcissism, this has been real. People everywhere have participated because they felt something, not because they wanted to be seen to be part of something.

While the authorities have made suggestions, kids at cricket training everywhere this week had already decided they were wearing black armbands. This has been organic, and when it’s natural it helps us deal.

It tells us is that sport does something to us like nothing else can. In this country, no matter where we are from, we experience sport together.

Sport binds us together as we’ve tragically been reminded of this week. The vast majority of us all will never star in a movie, will never be a rock star, will never run the country – the vast majority of us will never get close to any of these things we see on TV.

But everyone who has ever picked up a cricket bat will remember a time where a ball was bowled to them like it was to Phil Hughes on Tuesday. It may have been in a competitive match or it may have been in the backyard, but we’ve all experienced that mixture of fear and excitement as a ball is hurtled towards us.

We’ve all experienced that fleeting moment of exhilaration after hitting a ball so sweetly, just like Hughes did over and over again in his memorable sophomore Test match.

Just like we’ve all experienced a teammate’s embrace after win, a consoling pat on the back after a loss, a reminisce with someone you’ve not seen for years about that time way back when you were out on the field together.

Or that time when you had problems in life, and ‘the blokes down the club gave you a chop-out’.



A couple of years back one of my father’s oldest and closest mates passed away. His life had taken a turn for the worse in the years before his death, my father and their circle of friends had become more like carers, protectors and legal assistants rather than friends. They were all old football mates.

After he passed away, my father was typically pragmatic and gregarious in holding it together as he welcomed people into his house. Late in the night the reminiscing was in full swing when my father started talking about his great mate kicking those goals in that 1974 Grand Final that setup that great win that they all experienced as clubmates. I’d never seen Dad cry, but as those times flooded back he completely broke down and walked out of the room. It was as startling for me as it was beautiful, as those around shared a memory as one.


Plenty of people who knew Phil Hughes well and millions more who ‘d never met him had  those kind of reflective moments this week. His name will conjure up memories for us all for the rest of our lives. It’s why we’ve experienced such a wave of emotion this week.

Some people think Australia’s obsession with sport amounts to a cultural cringe, a sign of an unsophisticated nation.


Sport throws disparate groups together, creates deep friendships and enshrines memories that we all share collectively. It’s a part of our culture we should be immensely proud of.

In times like these sense cannot be made, but some solace can be found.  Our cradle of sport  gives us purpose to front up for that next game and keeps the flame of Phil Hughes, and others taken too soon, flickering for as long as we play.


  1. Beautifully expressed. Thanks Brutus. Made me think of my dad and late father-in-law. Generous men economical with outward express of emotion. Still waters……

  2. Btutus- great observations. Much to consider. Thanks for this.

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