NSW coroner Michael Barnes has found that a “minuscule misjudgment” by batsman Phillip Hughes as he attempted to pull a short ball from NSW paceman Sean Abbott led to his death.
“His death was a tragic accident,” Barnes said, announcing his findings on Friday morning.
“There was no suggestion the ball was bowled with malicious intent. Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragic outcome.”
Hughes was playing in the opening day of a Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and South Australia in November 2014 when the incident occurred. He died after two days in a medically-induced coma just three days short of his 26th birthday.
“A minuscule misjudgment or a slight error of execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences,” Barnes said.
Like an independent report commissioned by Cricket Australia 18 months ago and released earlier this year, the coroner concluded that even if Hughes had been wearing the latest safety equipment, it wouldn’t have saved him.
“Phillip wasn’t wearing the most up-to-date safety helmet when he was struck and the rules that then applied didn’t require him to do so. However, had he even been wearing that most modern equipment then available, it would not have protected the area of his body where the fatal blow landed,” Barnes said.
The coroner addressed the issue of sledging following what had been an emotion-packed inquest, saying “no finding is made as to whether the sledging allegedly actually occurred” and if it had, Hughes seemed unaffected.
But Barnes pointedly said that “unsavoury aspect… may cause those who claim to love the game to reflect upon whether the practice of sledging is worthy of its participants”.
“The family’s grief at losing their much loved son and brother was exacerbated by their belief that unfair play had contributed to his death,” he said.
The Hughes family were not present to hear the findings, having left on the final day of hearings apparently furious with the submission from Cricket Australia that players who denied sledging had told the truth.
The coroner recommended a neck protector should be developed to wear in first class cricket, but acknowledged it would be a difficult to make it functional.
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