THE death last week of cricketer Phillip Hughes, at just 25 years of age, is an unqualified tragedy. Not only was the cricket world rocked, but the outpouring of grief from sports fans in general and the Australian public as a whole has been stunning.
Many reactions to this horrific accident have been unique, with the sight of a lone cricket bat leaning against the front fence of homes one of the most poignant.
But the decision by the New Zealand cricket team not to bowl bouncers in their Test against Pakistan, and refrain from celebrating the fall of a wicket, says much about the brotherhood of the grand old game.
I must confess to under-estimating the impact the accident, and the subsequent death of Hughes, has had.
My initial thoughts were that it was simply another terrible misfortune where someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Almost without fail we wake each morning to this kind of news. And having worked in the media all my adult life may well be the reason I have become somewhat immune to heartbreaking news.
But a mate, who has represented our country in two sports and has been around long enough to have a vast recall, helped put me straight. He cannot remember a sporting misadventure that has had such a widespread effect on the community.
One that comes close is the incident during this past footy season that resulted in serious spinal injuries to Alex McKinnon, ending his NRL career.
Although not on the same scale internationally as this tragedy, the publicity and support the young Newcastle forward received - and is still receiving - reinforces that sport has an incredibly bonding component.
I was of the opinion the first Test against India, scheduled for the Gabba on Thursday, should still be played. But, again, my dual-international mate disagreed. From his first-hand experience, players could not possibly have their minds truly on the job after such a catastrophe involving one of their teammates.
And that throws a different light on the disappointing display by the Knights in the Rise for Alex round during this past season. With a full house at Hunter Stadium and an emotional pre-match salute to the wheelchair-bound McKinnon, Newcastle fell 22-8 to the vastly undermanned Titans.
A teary Willie Mason that day was reminiscent of Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke this past week, and tells us these are the times when high-profile, highly-paid sportsmen who show no fear or favour on the field are free to shed the tough exterior and allow their emotions to take charge.
But despite the sadness, the sorrow and the sick feeling experienced from these two horrible events, we must never lose sight of the fact they were accidents. And while we feel for the family and friends of Phillip Hughes and Alex McKinnon, we should not overlook those suffering in silence - Sean Abbott and Jordan McLean.
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