The death of Phillip Hughes has found a decent nerve in this nation. It has hit and moved Australians where they live. He was a fresh faced kid from the sticks with the eye of a native, a technique that got up the nose of the Establishment, and loads of what sportsmen treasure – drive and guts. One tick of the meter on technique, and he might have been up there with the Babe; another tick of the meter on Monday, and he would still be with us.
But none of us can work that meter. That is part of the deal that sees us here. The savage end, in front of his mum, came not from some flaw in the hero, as in a tragedy of Shakespeare, but with a cosmic glitch straight out of the more stern and ancient Homer.
Phillip Hughes was just coming into his flowering time as an Australian cricketer. His loss hurts babyboomers so much that grown men are crying with no shame. This kid was a throwback to a different age, one that we oldies cannot help but see as golden. It was a time when sport was sport, and we were spoiled for kids from the bush busting to take on the world. Ken Rosewall, Richie Benaud, Rod Laver, and Peter Thompson made us glad to be what we were. All that has gone, and Phillip Hughes has now gone too.
It was unnervingly hard to watch a distraught Australian Captain thank the country from the Hughes family; it was uplifting to hear the Australian team doctor tell us plainly that Phillip had been like a little brother to the Captain, and that he did not know how the family would have held up without the help of the Captain. We saw some goodness there.
God knows that this place can let you down, but God also knows that I would not want to live or die anywhere else. Australia can at least throw up a gem like Phillip Hughes. We mourn his leaving us because part of us went with him. Phillip Hughes felt what it meant to be an Australian, and he leaves us better than he found us.