David Hookes - Cricket - Australia - South - Victoria - Captain

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Embrace Opportunity - Vale David Hookes

News by Jon Cocks 02/02/04

Itís not every day that one of your contemporaries becomes a South Australian legend. In an age when we Ďknowí celebrities because of their constant presence on TV and in the media, you donít often claim actual acquaintance, but I did know David Hookes ever so slightly in my youth, half a lifetime ago.

I helped him find a lecturer at Adelaide Teachersí College one morning early in 1977, a week or so before he became a household name for his impact on the Centenerary Test. He was alerting the lecturer to his selection in the Australian team and therefore his absence from lectures. Hookesy might have become a Physical Education teacher in South Australian Education Department schools, had his cricket prowess not been so compelling.

I canít claim to an ongoing mateship with Hookesy, as he became an international cricketer and I became a teacher, although if sheer wishing had been a way to the top, I would have become his teammate in the South Australian and Australian cricket teams and things would have been as ordained in my dreams, at least. A small impediment to my dreams existed. It pertained to an utter absence of cricketing prowess on my part, a factor irrelevant to dreams.

Dreams. I still have them. If it were possible, I would use my formidable capacity for dreaming Ė among other things - to reverse a moment that went very wrong just on a week ago from the time of writing. Most of us wish we could be someone weíre not. When we get old enough, we know that itíll never happen and we compromise our dreams to target being the person we could be. I battle on with that in mind.

Over a week ago a champion bloke was taken from our world in a reprehensible and cowardly way. To many, this was a man whose life embodied the quintessential dream of sporting glory, both on the field and in the media. He was your archetypical Aussie larrikin, at home with kings and the ordinary bloke, never happier than when engaged in a battle of wits with mind or bat, or throwing down the beers afterwards and conducting the post match review, as do all of us with dreams intact and a love of sport.

The latter was his last act in this life. How ephemeral is life? How brief its bright flame, how suddenly that light is extinguished. People die every day, but the passing of people whose lives are a part of the broader canvas of humanity must be marked by a greater outpouring of community grief, because such individuals embody the dreams of us all in their own ways.

We all have our own divine spark, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, but only a few of us are gifted the right to blaze brightly in the public gaze and be lauded and lionised for the light that shines upon the rest of us, who, moths in the bright glow, are warmed by its reflected glory and are nourished spiritually for our presence in its proximity. Australian of the Year, 2004, Steve Waugh, must surely agree with that.

When we lose a Bradman, we lower the flags to half-mast and reflect on a long life well lived, salute, swallow the lump in the throat and acknowledge that an era is over. But when we lose a luminary prematurely, there is anger as well. Hookesy was a fallible human like the rest of us and itís quite possible that something he said caused Zdravco Micevic to allow his baser instincts to dictate that he pursue some form of macho retribution best left as a fleeting impulse. One brief moment of madness becomes a lifetime of torment.

Thereís no doubt that Micevic woke up last Sunday week without intending to kill anyone. Was he having a bad day? We all know how it feels at the end of a day when nothing goes right. Life sucks and someone has to pay. Itís easy to think that way. How easy is it to throw a metaphorical brick at the TV when some bright -eyed announcer chirps sickening about how wonderful everything is, when we are in debt, have been dumped by a girlfriend and/or suffered censure at work or home.

If youíre a hulking 21 year old, short on wisdom but big with muscles, how easy is it to throw the weight around and boost the self-esteem with a little old-fashioned intimidation? After the anger dies down, itís easy to rationalise what might have happened, but that doesnít make it right.

Micevicís crime is manifest. There is no excuse. There is no way out. He is in the wrong. He did it and he must pay. His life is over. These facts were acknowledged by the middle-aged man on TV Ė 24 hours after the act Ė who might have been his father or uncle. The life of Zdravco Micevic to January 18, 2004, is over. His only possible redemption lies in the slim hope that he might be able Ė in the long term Ė to atone for his crime by seeking help and changing his ways permanently, rather like an alcoholic or drug addict goes cold turkey and reforms. No amount of dreaming can change that.

One of Hookesyís many friends and admirers was well-known, indefatigable Melbourne western suburbs youth worker Les Twentyman. If I were he, Iíd be inviting Micevic to a meeting, where I would suggest to him that redemption were possible, by adopting a different approach to life: one in which he became a healer and not a hurter.

Such an outcome seems unlikely, just a week after the crime. Iíve already admitted to being a dreamer. If Iím such a luminary, why donít I do that myself? Why? Because itís too hard. I just want to map out a life for myself in which I achieve at least some of my dreams. I donít want to do the hard yards in the crappy suburbs, trying to reform feral teens whose lives were virtually preordained at birth, sometimes in a third world conditions with teenage drug addicts as their mothers.

Iíve been around long enough, however, to comprehend that those who have done a great wrong can make amends and find redemption by performing good works. There are plenty of others who have committed terrible deeds Ė like Micevic Ė but only a tiny percentage of them have been stupid and/or ignorant enough to commit such deeds against someone with a substantial public profile like Hookesy. This factor compounds the life sentence against Micevic. Whether it motivates him to do the time and emerge as a far better human being remains to be seen.

Opportunity exists for everyone, if we are smart enough to embrace it. Hookesy was smart enough and he became a much-loved figure, whose personal profile was not diminished by his departure from first class cricket, but rather enhanced over the years as he engaged his excellent personal qualities and reaped the rewards, making the most of the opportunities that came his way. I would hope that all Australians could embrace that thought and work towards making a better life for themselves and Ė in doing so Ė those around them. Vale Hookesy.

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