A Reflection on Phil Hughes

On Thursday, November 27th, 2014, Australian cricket lost one of it’s best and brightest to the game he loved.

Felled by a regulation delivery, Phillip Joel Hughes never regained consciousness after being transported to St Vincent’s Hospital.

Hughes grew up in Macksville on the New South Wales North coast. He began playing senior cricket at the age of 12 and moved to Sydney to play Grade cricket at the age of 17.

His offside game was strong. It came from being only able to hit to the offside in backyard cricket, as the kitchen window was on the leg side and he didn’t want to risk breaking it.

A dashing, left handed opener, he debuted for New South Wales in first class cricket at the tender age of 18. He was the youngest NSW debutant since Michael Clarke made his debut in 1999.

Two years later and he was called upon by the Test side to replace the legendary Matthew Hayden.

In just his second Test match he scored back to back hundreds, becoming the youngest player to achieve the feat in Test history, and the youngest Australian to score a Test century since Doug Walters.

Hughes also joined elite company. He became just the fourth Australian to have scored multiple Test centuries by the age of 21. The other three; Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Doug Walters.

Whilst he was in and out of the Test side throughout his career, he always forced his way back in by scoring runs at domestic level and was seen as the ultimate professional.

Former Australian opener, Justin Langer spoke of Hughes’ talent last year, saying that whilst Hughes had 19 first class centuries, when Langer was his age, he had just the one.

In what would be Hughes’ second last Test match, he posted a fighting 81 not out in the first match of the 2013 Ashes series.

It was typical of a more mature Hughes. He shelved the expansive back foot shots and looked to knock the ball in to space and build his innings.

Whilst the plaudits there went to Ashton Agar, Hughes was the man who anchored the record breaking tenth wicket stand.

He worked hard on his game after it seemed like he had a technique deficiency and plundered runs at state level to bring his name to the top of the list when Michael Clarke injured his hamstring during an ODI against South Africa.

In making his 63* against New South Wales it appeared as though he was about to get the tap on the shoulder that he deserved.

Then tragedy struck. A nation is in mourning and indeed, so is the wider international community.

Sydney Grade Cricket has been cancelled for the weekend.

Tributes have flown in from players all over the world. England captain, Alastair Cook, passed on his condolences.

The Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan in Sharjah has been suspended, whilst the tour match between a CA XI and India has been called off.

Hughes’ namesake, who plays baseball for the Minesotta Twins, has sent his condolences.

The National Rugby League posted their best wishes to the Hughes and Abbott families, whilst English Premier League giants, Liverpool said that both families would never walk alone.

And that just about sums it up.

Vale Phillip Joel Hughes.

Born: November 30 1988

Test Cap: 408

ODI Cap: 198

T20I Cap: 70

63 Not Out

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Hughes in critical condition

Former Australian opener and current South Australian Redback, Phil Hughes, has been taken to hospital in a critical condition after he was struck in the head by a Sean Abbott bouncer.

Hughes had evaded the short ball for the majority of his 63 run stay at the crease until he attempted a pull shot against the New South Wales paceman.

He was through the shot too quickly and the ball struck him under his grill as he wheeled around.

The batsman stood for a moment, with one hand on his bat, before he collapsed, face first, to the turf.

Players and umpires signaled for immediate medical assistance which was provided by the NSW doctor on hand.

CPR was performed on Hughes before emergency services arrived.

Both an ambulance and helicopter were called to the SCG for Hughes who was taken to nearby, St Vincent’s Hospital.

Hughes was among a number of batsmen trying to stake a claim for a Test spot for the upcoming series against India.

An early tea break was called with South Australia 2/136. The match has since been abandoned.

More to come

Hughes is currently in emergency surgery and an induced coma at St Vincent’s hospital. Cricket New South Wales is expected to make a statement this evening.

Our thoughts are with Hughes’ family, teammates and Sean Abbott and his family and teammates at this time.

UPDATE:

Hughes’ surgery has been completed. He remains in a critical condition and is being kept in an induced coma.

The results aren’t expected to be known for at least a further 24-28 hours.

Aussies in Action

Here’s a not so serious look at Australian athletes in action over the past week:

1. The Wallabies were beaten by Ireland 26-23 on the weekend. They enjoyed some free flowing Rugby in the first half but after a couple of head knocks from scrums and realising that their forwards weren’t fit enough to play an up tempo game, both sides settled into the inevitable game of penalty goals in the second half. Scrum half, Nick Phipps must be planning a secret move to the NFL to play as a quarterback after he hit Bernard Foley in the End Zone for a Touchdown, sorry try, in the first half. The tactic of throwing the ball forward was working until the Wallabies tried a conventional backwards pass which they fumbled 20 metres from the goal line. All they needed was a field goal to tie the match up.

2. Daniel Ricciardo finished 4th in Abu Dhabi. The number two driver at Red Bull again beat the number one driver in the final round of the F1 championship. Ricciardo wasn’t able to beat his team ranking of second by only finishing third in the overall F1 championship, two places ahead of the lead Red Bull driver, Sebastien Vettel who finished fifth in the championship. Ricciardo will take over as the official number one driver at Red Bull next year as Vettel takes his steering wheel and helmet and moves to Ferrari after realising that playing second fiddle to a younger driver wasn’t any fun. Just ask Mark Webber.

3. Australia beat Ireland 56-46 International Rules. Australia regain the title of World Champion in the International Rules one-off game held in Perth. They defeated the only other side that plays international rules, Ireland, to claim the world number one ranking. That’s still one more international side than the winners of the Super Bowl have to play to be crowned World Champions, but I digress. Showing surprising adeptness in kicking the round-ball, the team is looking forward to catching up with the Socceroos in a friendly before the Asian Cup. The International Rules side have actually been named favourites and have tabled an offer to Tim Cahill.

4. On the subject of Tim Cahill, the evergreen Australian went down to Asian power houses, Japan 2-1 in a Football friendly. Despite coming on only 17 minutes from full-time the Australian striker scored an injury time goal. After expertly warming the bench for the opening 73 minutes and watching his teammates squander possession before making Japan look like Real Madrid, Cahill came on and showed his teammates that the ball is supposed to go into the net; which is located between the two vertical sticks and underneath the horizontal stick. Cahill will be waiting for the team announcement prior to his next International contest to see by how many players he will be handicapped.

5. Mile Jedinak scored for Crystal Palace in his side’s English Premier League clash with Liverpool. A fantastic strike from Mile Jedinak helped kill off the Merseysiders after the Reds had opened the scoring. Jedinak employed a new technique to ensure his delivery was on target for this game, preferring to only make contact with the ball when it was dead as this avoided a need for him to control and pass the ball. The freekick from about 25 metres put Crystal up 3-1 over a struggling Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers’ position as Liverpool coach remains safe, as the board is yet to give him their full confidence.

6. The South African One Day side remain the world number one chokers, after they lost the fifth game of the series. The Australians tried their best to hand the match to the South Africans when they lost 5-21 in the closing overs, but the Saffas were keen to keep their reputation intact. Glenn Maxwell demonstrated his leadership qualities when he carelessly threw his wicket away, prompting Matt Wade, Pat Cummins and George Bailey to follow suit. James Faulkner though refused to follow the example set by the soon-to-be-Test captain, when he guided the Australians home in the final over. Maxwell has since been reverse selected for the upcoming Test series. Test cricket clearly isn’t ready yet for Glenn Maxwell. Steve Smith also fidgeted his way to another half century as Shane Watson demonstrated his ability to score dead rubber runs and lock his position in for the rest of the summer*.

*Subject to fitness.

Will Hayne make it – What the numbers say

Plenty has been said about Jarryd Hayne’s defection to the United States. A lot has revolved around whether he could make it in the NFL.

The question shouldn’t be; “Does he have the talent?” He’s answered that himself. The issue for Hayne is that he’s facing off against players who have played the game for over a decade and who would be much less of a gamble than him.

But enough of the human perceptions and guessing, what are the mathematical chances of Hayne making it onto an NFL roster?

What first must be taken into consideration is that America has a population of over 300 million people.

The NFL is one of only three major sports, the other two being baseball and basketball.

As a consequence, the NFL has a massive pool of players to select from, much larger than that of the NRL.

In 2012 there were 67,887 players involved in American college football. All of them want to play professionally.

The NFL drafted just 253 or 0.37% of the players playing college football. Two years on and only 170 remain active players on an NFL roster. That’s a minute 0.25% of those players actually making a career out of the NFL

The “excess” 83 are either practice squad members, undrafted free agents or they have retired.

And these are players who have played the game their entire lives and are simply told they aren’t good enough.

Hayne’s acknowledged the massive challenge that’s ahead of him.

To further investigate his chances, let’s have a look at the current rosters.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, each with 53 players. That’s a total of 1696 players currently active.

There are roughly 464 players who occupy the positions of running back, wide receiver, safety and kick returner. The positions that Hayne is rumoured to be most interested and/or capable of playing.

Each side has between 3-5 running backs, 4-7 wide receivers and 3-6 safeties. Kick returners tend to double as running backs or wide receivers.

What does all that mean for Hayne? Well, each side is going to have virtually locked in two first choice running backs, 3-4 wide receivers and at least three safeties.

Hypothetically, Hayne could have a shot at filling one of nine open positions on each roster, totaling 288 free positions across the NFL.

Of course those are all estimates, not every franchise is going to cut that many players every season.

Hayne would also be competing with 100 practice squad members who play in his preferred positions and who have been training alongside an NFL squad.

I would ideally like to be able to narrow it down to a percentage chance for Jarryd to one day run out onto the NFL field, however with player movements and the unknown quantity of free agents that is nigh on impossible.

Hayne will also be doing what hundreds of other undrafted free agents will be doing. Training to get a shot at the Detroit combine.

Similar to the College combine, this combine is for those players who are free agents and are looking for another shot. It’s strictly invite only with players having to get through a regional combine first.

There’s also one thing that statistics can’t predict and that’s human curiosity. Hayne’s produced a lot of interest in himself and there just may be an NFL recruiter who is prepared to take a punt on him given his reputation.

This piece isn’t de-riding Hayne’s chances, it’s just putting them in perspective. Hayne’s task is rather simple. He has to get himself noticed.

If he can prove that he would be a useful player in two positions, he’d be in with a more than fair shot. His marketability to Australia puts him in a unique position among those athletes and may just be what pushes him over the line.