We can be heroes
The strange case of a boyhood hero...
WHEN Kim Hughes was a kid he loved cricket and footy. His audacious talent with the bat meant he was quite well known around WA long before he made his Sheffield Shield debut.
He was pretty good at footy too. In the new book Golden Boy author Christian Ryan records that on consecutive weekends playing for Floreat Park under-18s Hughes kicked 17 goals as a full-forward, 11 from centre half-forward and seven as a ruck-rover.
I remember him watching him play reserves for Claremont. He was a talented player and it would be safe to suggest he would have played at least some league games for the Tigers had he not made cricket his first choice sport.
As a kid Hughes barracked for Subiaco (recently he was a member of the board) and his favourite player was Austin Robertson the team's full-forward.
Robertson's goal-kicking feats were incredible. He kicked over 1200 goals for Subiaco and had a season with South Melbourne in 1966 and kicked 60.
During the winter around Floreat Park young Kim Hughes would often be seen proudly wearing his Subi jumper with 16, Robertson's number, on the back.
In 1977 Austin Robertson was working for Kerry Packer. It was his job to sign up players for Packer's World Series Cricket. He approached Australian players based on a list that had been drawn up by Ian Chappell. Hughes has said that he was approached to sign up for WSC but declined.
Here's what Hughes' boyhood hero Austin Robertson said when asked by Ryan if he'd spoken to Hughes about joining WSC. "He says I did and I say I didn't. So you can believe who you like. I know who I approached and who I didn't approach and I think Mr Packer would have been very annoyed with me if I had approached Kim Hughes, who was not on the list."
Boyhood heroes often let us down but this story had a strange twist just this year. It came to pass that Robertson, once a bigger corporate high-flyer than he was on the footy field, had fallen on hard times. He was broke. Not just in the short-of-cash way but a homeless-nothing-but-the-clothes-I'm-wearing kind of way.
Former team mate Neil Randall, now president of the Subiaco Football Club, became aware of the champion full-forward's plight when Robertson admitted he couldn't afford to come to Perth for a reunion of the 1973 premiership team. As sportspeople tend to do, old mates soon rallied round and a gala dinner was organised to help get some money back into Robertson's pockets. Someone even gave him a flat to live in.
It was quite a deal. Dennis Lillee was there. Shane Warne came over for it. You name them: Ian Chappell, Justin Langer, Richie Benaud, Ian Healy, Mark Taylor, Mal Brown and two defenders during the Robertson era Ken McAullay (East Perth) and Brian France (West Perth). The ubiquitous James Brayshaw was the host.
And there was one other special guest too. Former Australian cricket captain Kim Hughes. He was there, no doubt, to pay tribute to his boyhood hero.
For a full review of Golden Boy by Christian Ryan (Allen & Unwin) click on http://australianrules.com.au/news/213/78/When-dreams-come-true
• Austin Robertson in a 1964 Mobil footy card.