The NSW Coroner has released his findings in to the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes on Friday following an emotional five-day inquest last month.
Coroner Michael Barnes found that Hughes’ death was nothing more than a tragic accident and that nobody should take the blame.
Graphic and emotional evidence was presented from players, officials and authorities during the inquest after Hughes was fatally struck by a short-pitched delivery during a Sheffield Shield match in November 2014.
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The inquiry deepened a rift between the former Test batsman’s family and those summoned to the witness box, with claims of threatening sledges, cover-ups and a slack emergency response.
But Mr Barnes said that the alleged sledging between bowlers and batsmen during the game didn’t affect Hughes’s composure.
“So the threats could not be implicated in his death,” he said.
“On that basis, no finding is made as to whether the sledging allegedly actually occurred.
“Hopefully, the focus on this unsavoury aspect of the incident may cause those who claim to love the game to reflect upon whether the practice of sledging is worthy of its participants.”
He found that a “minuscule misjudgment” by Hughes from a high-bouncing ball was what most likely led to his death.
“A minuscule misjudgment or a slight error of execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences… There was no suggestion the ball was bowled with malicious intent. Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragic outcome,” he said.
“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,” he said.
Mr Barnes did lay out a number of recommendations that he hoped would help to prevent similar accidents in the future.
He called for Cricket Australia to review dangerous and unfair bowling laws to weed out any inconsistencies in the interpretation of the rules.
He also wanted it to identify a helmet neck protector that all batsmen must wear in first class matches.
Mr Barnes also called on Cricket NSW to review its policy governing daily medical briefings to ensure key staff are aware of its purpose and recommended umpire training be reviewed so they can ensure medical assistance is summoned quickly and effectively.
The Hughes family was not in the courtroom on Friday but Mr Barnes closed with a message to them.
“The family’s grief of losing their much loved son and brother was exacerbated by their belief that unfair play had contributed to his death,” he said.
“It is hoped that they accept the compelling evidence that the rules were complied with; that Phillip was excelling at the crease as he so often did and that his death was a tragic accident.
“Nothing can undo the source of their never ending sorrow but hopefully, in the future, the knowledge that Phillip was loved and admired by so many and that his death has lead to changes that will make cricket safer, will be of some comfort.”