Ben Horne, in Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2016, where the title is “Lawyers duel it out at inquest into death of cricketer Phil Hughes”
GREG Melick, the counsel for the Hughes family, has attacked Australian cricketers over their failure to “recall” incidents that took place when Phil Hughes was struck. The extraordinary allegation has been countered by the counsel representing Cricket Australia and its players. The CA counsel also asked the State Coroner Michael Barnes to dismiss the “unsubstantiated” evidence lodged via Hughes’ family friend Matt Day. Counsel Assisting the Coroner also submitted that there was nothing to support an assertion that cricketers had “fabricated” their evidence.
Melick openly questioned the honesty of the four cricketers called to the stand to give evidence this week. Asking why Brad Haddin, Doug Bollinger, David Warner and Tom Cooper answered so many questions with explanations like “no recollection” or “I can’t recall.” Melick said his criticisms of the testimony provided by players did not apply to the statement provided by Sean Abbott due to the very acute trauma he has experienced.
These allegations were denied by CA’s counsel and the counsel assisting the Coroner. All week the Downing Centre has resembled a battlefield exposing the gulf that exists between Cricket Australia and the Hughes family. It went to another level this morning as the Hughes family, through their counsel, indicated that is their belief players had not been truthful.
The animosity surrounds the Hughes’ belief that Phillip was sledged and targeted with short-pitch bowling in the lead-up to the incident which claimed his life.There have been allegations levelled that NSW bowler Doug Bollinger sledged “I’m going to kill you” earlier in the day, and that the Blues upped the number of short balls at Hughes after lunch. But players have sworn that there was no such bowling plans and that sledging was not a factor that day.
The very sad war of words has been made even more difficult to comprehend because it would seem there is little dispute that Hughes’ death was a freak accident that could not have been anticipated. As the counsel representing Cricket Australia took the stand to defend the sworn statements provided by players, an emotional Greg and Virginia Hughes rushed out of the courtroom. Emotion engulfed the room — later brother Jason and sister Megan exited.
The Cricket Australia counsel said that Hughes’’s batting partner on that fateful day, Tom Cooper’s account of short pitched bowling and sledging — or lack thereof that day — should be taken very seriously. Melick claimed that Warner did not directly answer questions during his evidence via video link, but the Cricket Australia counsel strongly denied this allegation.
The Cricket Australia counsel expressed deep sympathies to the Hughes family and the organisation’s ongoing support. “I pay tribute to Phil Hughes and offer the support of the cricket family,” the counsel said. “The display of affection (that poured out at the time of Hughes’ death) speaks volumes about this young man.”
Earlier, the counsel assisting the coroner at the Phillip Hughes inquest has submitted that sledging and short-pitch bowling concerns expressed this week should not form part of the findings.
Hughes’ death was unexpected and accidental according to the counsel assisting and that the nature of play at the SCG that day did not exacerbate the risk of the batsman being seriously injured. To examine sledging and bowling plans would be “unnecessary” the court heard. The counsel assisting commended the Hughes family for conducting themselves with “great dignity” during what’s been a harrowing week at the Downing Centre. Once the impact occurred it was found nothing could have been done to save Hughes, even if it did take six minutes for an ambulance to be called. The counsel assisting said significant efforts have been made by Cricket Australia and other authorities to improve safety and medical conditions at cricket matches in the wake of Hughes’ death.
STATEMENTS FROM HUGHES’ SISTER AND BROTHERTHE sister of Phillip Hughes has described chaotic scenes in the aftermath of her brother being fatally struck by a cricket ball. In a written statement to the inquest into the batsman’s death, Megan Hughes says her mother, Virginia, was “panicking”, after Hughes was hit in the neck by a short-pitched delivery from NSW bowler Sean Abbott during a Sheffield Shield match in November 2014.
She said NSW bowler Doug Bollinger came over to her and her mother as they waited for an ambulance to arrive at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “Mum turned and looked up to him and said, “Have you seen Phillip? Is he conscious?” Megan Hughes recalled in a written statement tendered at the inquest. “Doug replied, ‘Yes, he is conscious’.” The inquest has heard Hughes never regained consciousness after swaying and falling forward on the pitch. The coroner’s court has heard it took about an hour to get Hughes to hospital.
In her statement, Ms Hughes said it seemed to take a “tremendously” long time for an ambulance to reach Hughes, who had been blowing kisses to his family members in the ladies pavilion earlier in the day. “I had no idea why we weren’t straight on our way to the hospital with Phillip,” she said in the statement prepared with the assistance of her mother.
“I will do anything I can to have some justice about all of this chaos.” Hughes’ father Greg and brother Jason, who were not at the SCG at the time of the incident, also provided written statements. Jason remembered his brother as a hard-working cricketer who was “always smiling”. He said he was at work when he heard about the incident. “I was thinking he was knocked out, but knowing Phil, he would just get back up.”