NSW Coroner's Court to open Hughes inquest
Difficult week for Australian cricketers looms with the death of Phillip Hughes to be examined in week-long public inquest
9 October 2016, 09:43 PM AEST
The New South Wales Coroner's Court will begin a week-long inquest into the death of Phillip Hughes in Sydney on Monday as efforts continue to ensure a similar tragedy is not repeated.
The public inquest, presided over by State Coroner Michael Barnes, is separate to the already-completed independent review commissioned by Cricket Australia, the findings of which were published in May this year.
That 62-page 'Curtain Report' – which can be downloaded in full here – was commissioned in the wake of Hughes's death when he was struck on the neck while batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 25, 2014.
The 25-year-old died in hospital two days later as a result of a traumatic basal subarachnoid haemorrhage caused by the blow.
CA has already implemented measures recommended by review, conducted by the President of the Australian Bar Association and former Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, David Curtain QC.
Quick Single: Full details of Curtain Report findings
The inquest could hear public evidence from some of the players and officials who were present at the SCG when Hughes was struck. As the match was the Shield round before that summer's Test series against India, a number of Australia internationals including David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were on the field.
It is not expected the coroner will require every player or official who was present to give evidence at the inquest.
"The State Coroner will examine the manner and cause of death," a spokesperson for the NSW Coroner's Court said. "He also has jurisdiction under section 82 of the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) to make recommendations, particularly in the interest of public health and safety.
"Some of the issues that will be examined include how the fatal injury occurred, the nature of play and whether it exacerbated the risk of injury and whether or not a protective helmet would have minimised the risk of Phillip Hughes dying.
"It will also examine emergency planning and response, as well as training.
"At this stage, the State Coroner has not decided whether findings will be handed down at the end of next week."
The Curtain Review of the Hughes tragedy recommended that all first-class cricketers be compelled to wear a protective helmet that meets stringent British safety standards at all times when facing fast or medium-pace bowling in matches and at training.
CA has already mandated that helmets meeting that standard are to be worn by all elite-level players. The review also recommended that helmets become mandatory for fielders positioned close to the batter (except slips fielders), and that wicketkeepers wear eye as well as head protection when standing up to the stumps.
Quick Single: ICC rejects use of concussion substitutes
CA has also introduced the use of concussion substitutes, with the current Matador BBQs One-Day Cup the first elite men's competition played under those rules. The rule will also be in place for this summer's KFC Big Bash League, but the International Cricket Council did not endorse it for first-class cricket.
Former Test skipper Mark Taylor said the inquest would present "a very tough week" for Australian cricket.
"I think what we have learnt is, and what we have always tried to do, is keep players as safe as you possibly can," Taylor told Fairfax Media.
"At the same time, we also realise that no matter what sport you play, there is a certain amount of risk involved in that sport. The whole Hughes tragedy has certainly reinforced those thoughts, no doubt about that.
"It's going to be a really tough week for the players involved, particularly those who are still playing, because obviously their thoughts are on the various sides they are playing in, doing well, maybe getting picked to play for Australia, we don't know, and, at the same time, a lot of these very tough memories are going to be rekindled, which is going to make it tough for them."
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said when the Curtain Report was published the organisation would fully cooperate with the coronial inquest.
"Never again do we want to see a tragedy of that nature happen on a cricket field and we have shared the findings of this review with the coroner," Sutherland said.
Sutherland also expressed a reluctance to put restrictions on short-pitched bowling.
"You'll see in the brief terms of reference we gave David Curtain that we needed to draw a line about the laws of the game and to have some perspective around that," he said.