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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 11:00 GMT
Growing up with Hookesy
By Scott Heinrich

A CHILDHOOD IDOL
David Hookes
I wanted so much to be like him that I batted left-handed to enhance the escapism
When you're a sports-mad kid growing up in Australia, the backyard is where dreams become a reality.

It was two decades ago but the memories are so vivid that when I close my eyes I'm back at Sheringa Crescent, and the Ashes is at stake.

Behind the clothes line with furry cherry in hand, runny-nosed Dylan looks every bit like Ian Botham, while Jason with the knotted hair stands like Allan Lamb waiting for a catch.

And then there's me, literally batting for Australia. Except it's not me, it's David Hookes.

Like Hookes, I was born in Adelaide, the sleepy capital of South Australia that came to life whenever he was at the crease.

There have been better players to grace the Australian team, even the South Australian team. But for an impressionable young boy 20 years Hookesy's junior, there was nobody quite like him.

In his play, he encapsulated everything we were taught sport should be like. And how it should be played.

I remember enduring 42C heat to watch Australia play England in a one-day match in January, 1983.

David Hookes plays a shot for South Australia
Hookes set scoring records playing state cricket for South Australia

There were no lights at the Adelaide Oval back then so it was a day game, and England batted first in the peak hours of late morning and early afternoon.

The innings break was a hot hell and I wanted to go home, but dad filled my cap with iced water at 10-minute intervals and told me it would be worth it. He was right.

We lost, but Hookesy put on a show I will never forget.

Border, Dyson, Hughes, Chappell, Marsh, Wessels - they all went cheaply but Hookes took Beefy Botham for seven an over, which back then was pretty good going.

That's what made him so special: when things were tough he was still free-spirited, defiant, magnetic and always entertaining.

It didn't matter that Hookes didn't play more Test matches for Australia. Not to us.

A tribute to David Hookes
Hookes was an adored figure in Adelaide and beyond

If anything, it just gave me more opportunities to hassle my ever-suffering father into taking me to the Adelaide Oval to watch him flay one poor state attack after another.

In South Australia we always knew how special Hookesy was, and I guess we always saw him as a South Aussie first and an Aussie second.

But he was a personality all of Australia felt they owned. It's a great shame it takes death for the full extent of somebody's popularity to be realised.

Not that he was ever taken for granted. After his playing days he commented on the game the way he played it, and people respected him for that even if they didn't always agree with him.

Hookesy gave Australian sport a great deal, and undoubtedly had a lot more to give had fate not turned its fickle hand his way.

To a nation of youngsters growing up in Australia, he was one of the reasons we got into cricket.

In the backyard days I wanted so much to be like him that I batted left-handed to enhance the escapism.

But that was fantasy. The hopeless reality is that Hookesy is not coming back.

The real tragedy of his needless death goes beyond the trivial parameters of sport.

I lost a childhood idol, but those close to him had a husband, a father and a friend taken from them.

And no amount of treasured memories can change that.


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