The Day Before Phillip Hughes Walked Out to Bat for the Last Time

The day before Phillip Hughes walked out to bat for the last time, my Dad was moving the furniture around for reasons apparent only to himself. It scared mum, but in the Titanic of his mind, it must have made sense to shift a few chairs.


The night after Phillip Hughes faced his final ball, Dad woke up yelling, “Get me out of here! Get me out of here!” So my sister and my mum did get him out of there, in an ambulance.


On the Friday afternoon after the death of Phillip Hughes, I was driving south down the Hume Freeway wondering why I was feeling so sad about a First Class cricketer on the fringes of the Test team. Usually the phrase “social media campaign” makes me cringe, but the thought and sight of lone cricket bats on doorsteps and in front yards seemed right to me.


On the Saturday when I went to see Dad in hospital, I realised that I, like cricketers everywhere, was learning something about vigils. Dad was conscious and talking, but he was incredulous that it was fourpence a stamp at the Adelaide Post Office. My sister said something about aged care. I’d been thinking the same thing myself, but it was heartbreaking to think he would never return to his home of 48 years – our family home – in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Whatever our unspoken thoughts were, Dad’s spoken thoughts about the price of stamps in 1950s Adelaide were the last substantial thing I heard him say.


In the days following the death of Phillip Hughes, I waited for the media circus to roll in. At any moment, I was expecting the clowns to arrive, juggling their clichés. But what I saw instead was heartfelt and dignified. From James Sutherland, and Michael Clarke, to the consoling of Sean Abbott, the reactions of the Indian Cricket Team, the responses of the international sports community, and the newspaper articles about the inherent dangers and underlying fear in sport. It was indeed sad, but also respectful, measured, and realistic. I’m not sure whether my Dad could’ve cared less – he probably would have had some sort of opinion on it – but I would never know, because on the Sunday when we went to visit, he was sleeping, and we sat there for a while not wanting to disturb him.


On the Monday afternoon, I drove north up the Hume with my own music and my own thoughts. I do look forward to the First Test of every summer, but to delay it this year felt right. I drive understanding what it is to be so focussed on something – someone – to not care much about anything else. Once the traffic thinned out after the second turn-off to Seymour, the rhythm of the Hume is sympathetic.


I took my leave of the Hume after Glenrowan, turning east towards the mountains. In the distance were some pretty serious clouds, but they were well ahead of me, and it wasn’t the time to see anything in them except lightning and rain.


After my sister rang just after I got home, I didn’t think much more about Phillip Hughes. His story withdrew to the background, and my father’s life – or rather the ending of it – took precedence. No one this close to me has ever been this sick before, and now it was my turn to learn from the lessons of dying.


On the Thursday morning my father died, and like Phillip Hughes, did so just shy of his birthday. Dad would have been 83 on the Saturday.


  1. Lovely piece Anthony, best wishes to your family


  2. An immensely personal story told with grace. Thanks Anthony and best wishes.

  3. Beautifully expressed, Anthony. As Shakespeare put it “we all owe God a death”. Your Dad and Phillip both crammed in lots of living before the debt was called. Go well.

  4. Callum O'Connor says

    Anthony this is probably my favourite piece in response to Hughes’ death… yes, the ‘white crown of death’ has been avoided here and everything has been, as you said, realistic. I wonder if you’ve ever read William McInnes’ book ‘A Man’s Got to have a Hobby’? I was reminded of that while I was reading this.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Anthony a great personal story and Callum spot on re William McInnes
    all the best , Anthony

  6. Thanks Anthony. A beautifully sparse and tender tribute. All the best to you and your family.

  7. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Anthony a long and healthy life to you and yours. Tomorrow is mums 84th and my sister and I have taken her to san Remo near Phillip island for a weekend. I am sitting here on the deck looking over the bay and feel at peace. Reading your beautifully written thoughts and contemplations add depth to all our experiences. Thank you for sharing some of yourself and your family, and I hope you get comfort that your dad was well loved and will be well missed. I feel honored to have shared these moments with you while mum naps inside. Yvette

  8. May your father rest in peace, Anthony.

  9. Anthony Thomas says

    Thanks everyone for your comments and wishes. Callum, I’ll look out for William McInnes’s book. He’s someone I admire so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Yvette, it’s the Almanac community that encouraged me to share my story. I’ve been a long time reader and knew that I would find an appreciative and thoughtful audience here.

  10. Hi Anthony – thank you for sharing your own story of personal loss with us. Thoughts with your family.

  11. Keiran Croker says

    My thoughts are with you Anthony. I lost my Dad this year in very similar circumstances. He spent his last few months in care after 62 years with Mum in the same house and died just short if his 92 birthday.
    We all grieve in our own ways and 4 months on I still stop at times with a sudden sadness. And although I did not personally know Phil Hughes I grieve for the loss of a young man and unrealised talent and ambition. Take care.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bravely told Anthony, thanks.

    William McInnes’ books are well worth a look. Easy to read, but plenty to say.

  13. Well done. Check out Martin Flanagan’s tribute to his dying mother in the age about two weeks ago. Brilliant.

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