Mr ALBANESE(Grayndler) (10:47): I rise today to express my condolence to the family of Phil Hughes, to his team mates and to his friends. Later today in Macksville on the New South Wales north coast, he will be farewelled. That is an occasion for which Australia will stop and pause.
This tragedy has had an enormous impact on Australians. Cricket is our national game. It is a pastime where people, young and old, participate either by playing or by watching. The shock that someone who was so well known to Australians could lose their life so tragically is one that has had a profound impact on the nation.
Phil Hughes was someone who I had the honour of meeting on a number of occasions. He played for Western Suburbs District Cricket Club as his local team, which is based in Pratten Park in my electorate. Phil Hughes was someone who always had time for the youngsters who played cricket there, from Milo cricket up to the district competition. My son was one of those young people who played cricket based at Pratten Park, for Summer Hill Cricket Club. My son was also a left-handed batsman. I think you can tell a lot about someone who is a star—and make no mistake: Phil Hughes was a superstar—by how they approach a young kid who nervously comes up to them and asks for a bit of advice or just to say hello. Phil Hughes gave batting tips to my son. I well recall him giving my son a bat and asking him about his stance and giving him a bit of advice that was gentle, considered and humble. This was a bloke who was a country cricketer based in the relatively small town of Macksville, which will be mourning today.
Phil Hughes is someone who never got ahead of himself. In spite of his setbacks—four times dropped and then returned to the Australian cricket team; he played 12th man and he spent a lot of time in the dressing room as well as on the field—he never thought that that was not good enough for him. The way that he approached the youngsters, not just my son but the youngsters coming up through the Western Suburbs teams at Ashfield, to me indicated the character of the man. It was absolutely of no surprise to me the impact that his passing has had on Michael Clarke, who has shown extraordinary leadership during this difficult time, and on the rest of his teammates.
Today I also acknowledge the trauma that Sean Abbott must be going through. Sean Abbott was just doing his job as a bowler, and there could have been no expectation of this tragedy. I have seen a lot of cricket over the years. You just do not expect that someone will be seriously hurt, let alone lose their life, when a ball comes down the pitch.
Phillip Hughes was someone you wanted to watch. He is someone you wanted to be in the team because of the quality of his cricket. He is someone who was unorthodox, someone who was not a graceful player like a Mark Waugh or a Greg Chappell. He had an unorthodox technique but he was extraordinarily effective and fantastic to watch, particularly his play through the offside. His driving and his cuts are something that will remain.
The fact that these statements are being made in the House—and that today he will be honoured by the presence of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others at his farewell—says a lot about the impact that he had during his all-too-short time on this planet. I today express my condolences to his family, to his teammates in the Australian cricket team and the South Australian team, to his former teammates in New South Wales and to the Western Suburbs cricket club in my electorate. He had an enormous impact on all those who watched him but also an enormous impact on all those who had the privilege to meet him.