Inquest no solace for Hughes' family
Photo Source: AAP
Relationships have strained and the unique despair felt by Phillip Hughes' family has become all the more desolate during an inquest into the gifted cricketer's tragic death.
Hughes' former manager James Henderson spoke outside Sydney's Downing Centre on Monday morning, outlining the family's hopes that "a positive come out of Phillip's death as we go through the next five days".
Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland expressed similar sentiments at the same place and same time.
The findings of NSW coroner Michael Barnes will have a large say in how much comes of the week but Australian cricket's most tragic episode is now even sadder.
Division between Hughes' family and those involved with the game their son loved so much has been one of the recurring themes of the week. The wedge has related to NSW's approach during Hughes' final innings, specifically sledging and a short-pitched salvo.
It is in stark contrast to the grief that united both parties and enveloped Hughes' teammates at the SCG, St Vincent's Hospital and Macksville High School after the opener was felled by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match in 2014.
Then, team physio Alex Kountouris was one of many CA officials to put out their bats and pay tribute to someone they toured much of the world with. Kountouris helped grief-stricken players negotiate an unprecedented loss amid the family's request for privacy.
On Thursday, Kountouris' testimony regarding an incident report prepared for CA prompted Hughes' father Greg, mother Virginia and sister Megan to shake their heads in unison. Greg's anger was particularly palpable. He stared at Kountouris for much of the session and continued to do so when both men left the courtroom.
The words of David Warner, Tom Cooper, Brad Haddin and Doug Bollinger have also been met with disbelief by Hughes' family this week, including brother Jason.
Paceman Bollinger - and specifically whether he muttered words to the effect of "I'm going to kill you" - has formed a key part of the week's proceedings.
Bollinger, Warner, Cooper, Haddin and the two umpires testified they couldn't recall anything like that being said.
Cooper, a former housemate of Hughes who carried his coffin alongside family members, was pressed and flatly rejected claims he told Hughes' brother Jason about the alleged sledge.
Matthew Day, a teammate of Jason at Sydney first-grade team Mosman and friend of Phillip, submitted a written statement to the contrary.
Regardless of which party is true, it seems an ungainly exercise in futility. Even if Bollinger uttered the remark, it's unclear how it would have put Hughes at greater risk. Similar comments have been made by many cricketers at many levels for many years.
"Where else in the world do you get the opportunity to basically kill someone with two bouncers an over? Or try, legally," South African spearhead Dale Steyn pondered in a 2012 interview.
The context has of course changed dramatically since Hughes groaned and slumped to the ground, suffering a desperately unlucky injury. At every level of Australian cricket there is only one other recorded instance of a player dying from a vertebral artery dissection.
That is of course no solace to Hughes' family. Nothing ever will be.