Doug Bollinger on Back Foot in Phil Hughes Inquest

Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 13 October 2016, where the title is “Hughes witness puts Bollinger on the back foot”

A last-minute statement by a new witness has contradicted claims by senior cricketers to the NSW Coroner that Phillip Hughes was not sledged or targeted with short-pitched bowling. The tragedy of Hughes’s death was revisited yesterday with bowl­er Sean Abbott’s moving ­account of cradling the fallen batsman on the pitch after he’d been struck a fatal blow. But the sideshow that the inquest into the accident has become was also on display when Matthew Day, a former Australian under-19 player and friend of the Hughes family, offered a statement to the NSW Coroner’s Court stating that Doug Bollinger told him he regretted saying on the day the words “I am going to kill you”.

Day’s recollection sets him at odds with the other players, ­including South Australia’s Tom Cooper, who was a pallbearer with Day at Hughes’s funeral. Day also claimed the NSW bowling coach at the time told him he was upset there were plans to bowl short to Hughes, who was struck and killed by a bouncer.

bollinger-today Doug Bolinger on the field 2016Pic by Phil Hillyard

day Matthew Day at hospital after Phillip Hughes was injuredPic by John Grainger

That allegation has also been denied by the NSW players.Bollinger, Brad Haddin, David Warner and Cooper, who were playing in the game in November 2014, deny there was any sledging, although Bollinger conceded he “may” have said something and forgotten. Cooper, who lived with Hughes and was batting with him, denied yesterday that he had told Phillip’s brother Jason of Bollin­ger’s alleged words during an impromptu wake for the cricketer at the SCG the night Hughes died.

“While I was at the gathering at Sydney Cricket Ground, I was with a group of players sitting where the players’ seats are in the home dressing room,” Day said in his statement released yesterday. “There were six or seven players in the group. I can’t remember all of the players but Doug ­Bollinger was one of the group. There was general discussion regarding the circumstances of the match. At one stage, Doug Bollinger said words to the effect of: ‘One of my sledges was “I am going to kill you”. I can’t believe I said that. I’ve said things like that in the past but I am never going to say it again.’ Although I am used to sledging in cricket matches, I was stunned by Doug’s ­comment.

“At some stage after Doug Bollinger’s comments, the ­Hughes family arrived at the Sydney Cricket Ground. When I had the opportunity, I ­approach­ed Jason Hughes and I said words to the effect of ‘Doug Bollinger just told me that he sledged them by saying he was going to kill them’. Jason Hughes responded by saying words to the effect of ‘Tom Cooper told me the same thing’.”

Cooper was adamant in his evidence that he did not have that conversation.

Counsel assisting the coroner Katrina Stern said she would be advising that sledging would not be part of the inquest findings. Cricket Australia confirmed yesterday one of its lawyers was there for all player interviews — which were then turned into the statements — but emphasised Ms Stern was also present. Bollinger and Cooper were told of Day’s statement yesterday after they left Drummoyne Oval in Sydney, where they had been playing in a NSW v South Australia Matador Cup match.

Part of Coroner Michael ­Barnes’s reasons for the inquest are to examine “the nature of play and whether it exacerbated the risk of injury”. The Hughes family was also concerned there was a plan to bowl short to Hughes after lunch, but the players ­denied it.

Cooper claims in evidence he heard there was a plan. “Subsequently, I had been at Warwick Adlam’s house and Trent Johnston was there as well,” he said. “Trent Johnston was the NSW bowling coach-assistant coach at the time of the game in which Phil passed away. When I left Warwick’s house, I shared a taxi with Trent Johnston. Johnston said words to the effect of ‘I am struggling with the fact that I was a big part of a plan that NSW adopted, that was to bowl short to Phil, and that eventually ended with him being struck’.

All parties agreed yesterday not to cross-examine Day on his statement. Abbott, who also will not be called to give evidence, revealed for the first time the trauma of bowling the fatal delivery. “I think Phillip was a bit early through the shot,” he said in a statement. “If a batsman is early through the shot, it makes me think that the ball is slower than they had anticipated. I don’t remember the ball being fast or slow. Maybe the wicket was a little slower that day. That’s the type of wicket at the SCG. After Phillip was struck, I saw him start to sway and I ran to the other end of the pitch and I held the right side of his head with my left hand. I remained on the field until Phillip was placed on the medical and then returned to the change room. Once in the change room, I felt confused and upset. I had a headache, people kept coming up to me but I cannot remember what they said. It was a bit of a blur and I felt like I was in a bit of a daze. I felt super tired. These feelings stayed with me for the next few days.”

***  ***


* Roberts 2016 “Against Verbal Intimidation in Cricket: A Voice in A Wasteland,” 12 October 2016,

* Roberts 2016 “Alex Kontouris faces “Chin Music” at the Coronial Inquest into Phil-Hughes’ Death,” 13 October 2016,





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4 responses to “Doug Bollinger on Back Foot in Phil Hughes Inquest

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