Excuse Me While I Get A Little Bit Australian

One of the children asked why Australia had taken the news so badly.

“Thousands of people die every day, how come everyone is so upset about him in particular?”

I’ve tried to put it into words and I can’t. Which is probably why I’m here on the page. It’s true, there were other tragedies last week in Australia: a workplace accident in Adelaide, a fatality on a country road. Neither less tragic or deserving of attention. The news of the passing of Phillip Hughes had me sobbing throughout the day. I watched and listened as friends relayed the same thoughts. At a baseball field in Qatar on Friday morning I sat with a fellow Aussie, we both wiped away the tears as we spoke about articles we’d read and pictures we’d seen. What we’d seen shared by friends.

“I was nearly going to ring you yesterday, I just needed to speak to someone who would understand.”

What she meant was she needed to speak to another Australian.

It felt like something monumental had happened in Australia, it was somehow united in grief.

Richard Glover

I’ve thought so much over the past few days about why it was that so many of us felt such sadness. Was it something to do with sport? Or was it that Phillip Hughes was more than a statistic; there were stories, footage, we’d watched it unfold never really believing he wouldn’t walk out of the hospital. We’d heard from his friends, seen his family. We’d talked of wanting to collectively hug Sean Abbott, will him to understand that there was no blame.

I have a few Aussie friends who couldn’t care one way or another when it comes to games with guernseys, baggy green caps, and syndicated broadcasts. It’s definitely not compulsory to be a sports fanatic in our wide brown land, but observations made by friends from overseas could have you thinking otherwise. “All you Aussies are sports mad!” a Welsh girlfriend once said to me “and so you bloody should be with all that sunshine and fresh air.” International friends have marvelled over our swimming programs, countrywide junior football initiatives, and Institute of Sport. I’ve asked myself why it is that I’m so passionate about my footy team? Why do I feel that summer isn’t summer without a game of cricket being on in the background. How did it develop in my psyche, nature or nurture? 15 years out of Australia and I’m still counting down the days until footy seasons starts each year.

I am a lover of the iconic Aussie larrikin, be it male or female. A wink, a giggle, a joke, and a relaxed nature about life. Larrikin has perhaps now become one the most un-coolest words to use in modern Australian culture. So 80’s, so who we used to be before Paul Hogan started getting plastic surgery, and you voted for a Prime Minister who could down a beer faster than anyone else. The Aussie larrikin is associated with a time gone by of poor behaviour and a collective uncultured mass.

I don’t care – it is what it is.

Today’s bogan is yesterdays larrikin. Sport has provided a platform for many great larrikins, Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser my personal favourite. It’s the great leveller. You may not be the wealthiest, the most educated, or the best dressed; but if you can catch, throw, jump, or run further and faster than anyone else? The cheer of the crowd if only momentarily, 70,000 people can become one in an instant, the raw of the roar.

If Australian sport was to have a personality, Phillip Hughes would be it. Cheeky, determined, honest, hardworking, a rough diamond with more natural ability than polished technique. While so many of us rode our bikes to training dreaming of representing Australia one day – he got there.

It’s possible if you’re out of Australia you’ve seen one of Fitzy and Wippa’s parodies. I know the little travellers had seen them before they’d heard the guys first hand on afternoon radio in Australia. Fitzy, an ex AFL footballer come tv personality and full time radio presenter personifies the Aussie larrikin – which is probably why I think he explained it best.

Why did we get so upset my little traveller? I’m still not sure I’ve explained it properly, and it’s certainly still very hard to talk about and explain. I hope maybe this sheds some light.

Why do you think the world was so shaken?

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