Australia: Michael Hussey has revealed in a new book that his failure to attend a boat party after his final Test contributed to a split in the Australian camp. An extract from Hussey’s new book, Underneath the Southern Cross, was published in News Ltd newspapers on Sunday and outlined the events surrounding a pre-planned team party on James Packer’s boat to celebrate the end of the summer following the Sydney Test against Sri Lanka in January.
Hussey had announced prior to the Test that it would be his last, although that was not known at the time when captain Michael Clarke organised the boat trip, months in advance. Because children were not allowed on the boat for safety reasons, Hussey and his family did not attend and in the weeks that followed, rumours began to circulate of a rift between Hussey and Clarke.
However, Hussey said while some members of the Test team, notably Shane Watson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon, expressed concerns that Hussey was staying behind at the team hotel instead of attending the boat party, he himself understood that the situation could not have been predicted. Hussey said he spoke to team manager Gavin Dovey to explain that while he wanted the team to go on the boat trip, he intended to stay at the hotel with his family.
“All this was pretty straightforward to me,” Hussey wrote. “I said to Gavin, ‘I just want some hours to celebrate with the boys in the dressing room. I don’t want to stop them from having the celebration on the boat’. I said, ‘I reckon the boat will be great for the boys, but after we have our time in the dressing room as a team, I’ll have my time with the family’.
“We had a fantastic time in the dressing room. The team had organised for John Williamson to come in and sing True Blue to us. It was a live-in-person way of calling the team song. Afterwards, the team presented me with a watch and had organised another gift. A few people spoke some really nice words, and then the time came for everyone to go: the team to the boat, and me to my family.
“When we got back to the hotel, the boys had to be downstairs in half an hour to assemble for the boat trip. A few of the support staff had children, so we were all going to meet at the mezzanine and have some pizzas. Unfortunately, when they came down to leave, some of the boys didn’t know about my conversation with Gavin and assumed I was going on the boat.
“Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon came up to the mezzanine and said, ‘What’s going on? Aren’t you coming?’ I said, ‘I’m staying with the family, but I want you to go, you’ll have a great time’. Sidds, who was now a teetotaller, decided to stay at the hotel. I talked Nathan into going. ‘It’ll be a great experience, you’re part of the team going forward, go on, have a good time’.”
However, Hussey said the next morning Dovey explained to him that some of the players were disappointed the team had not stayed with Hussey while others believed they should have gone on the boat, leading to a division in the group. Hussey reiterated that he thought the boat party was a good idea for the team and that he had no complaints, but spoke to Watson and Siddle to clarify the situation.
“Sidds was fine. He said it was a bit disappointing that the whole team didn’t stay with me, but he accepted it,” Hussey said. “Watto was not so accepting. He was adamant that the team should have changed its plans and stuck with me. I kept telling him, ‘Look, I had no problems, it was fine’. It shouldn’t have been an issue.”
But an email that circulated in the following weeks alleged a rift between Hussey and Clarke had been the issue, which Hussey denied, saying that Clarke had been “very empathetic”. Hussey also wrote in his new book that he felt he had been responsible for the now infamous scuffle between Clarke and Simon Katich after the SCG Test of 2008-09.
Hussey was in charge of the Australian team song and determining when it would be sung following their win over South Africa, and Clarke had asked him if it could be completed by midnight. Clarke had organised a bar for the post-dressing room celebrations, although Hussey did not know this, and as the evening dragged on with the South African players also sharing a drink with the Australians, time started to get away from Hussey.
“Every half-hour or so, [team manager] Steve Bernard kept coming up to me and saying, ‘Huss, when are you going to sing the song?’ I was having a good time, and in the mood to sit for a while, and said, ‘Brutus, every time you ask me, I’m going to add another 15 minutes on to it’,” Hussey wrote. “I didn’t realise that Michael Clarke had organised a bar for the post-dressing room celebrations. Feeling under time pressure, he was asking Steve to get me to hurry up and sing the song.
“I wished in hindsight that he’d come up to me and said, ‘Huss, can we sing the song, we need to hurry up and go’. I would have been more than happy to sing the song straight away and let them go. While I was completely oblivious to Pup’s mounting panic, Kato was on the other side of the room with a clear view of Pup talking to Steve Bernard and getting frustrated.
“Then, out of nowhere they came together in the middle of the room. There was a big confrontation and I thought, what the hell is going on? This had come out of nowhere. We’d all been having a laugh and a chat. It got broken up pretty quickly. Kato was put back down in his seat and Pup left the dressing room altogether. We were all in a bit of shock. I certainly didn’t know what the hell had gone on. Kato was very apologetic.
“It was the first Test match for Doug Bollinger and Andrew McDonald — who had, coincidentally, replaced Andrew Symonds, who’d played his last Test in Melbourne. Kato was saying to each of them, ‘I’m really sorry for what happened. I just want you to enjoy this win, I’m really sorry, I don’t want to ruin your first Test match’. Andrew McDonald broke the ice beautifully. He said, ‘Don’t worry, mate, this happens all the time in Victoria’. Everyone burst out laughing and cheering.
“We all started drinking again and didn’t think about it. I said, ‘We’d better get this song done.’ Half an hour later I called it, and asked Brute, ‘Where’s Pup?’ ‘He’s gone.” I felt completely responsible. I felt it was a black mark against my name that one of our brothers was missing for the team song. We’d won the Test match together, but he was gone. I felt dreadful about it, and the next morning tried calling him but couldn’t get through. I sent him messages. He eventually got back and said it wasn’t my fault, don’t worry, he’d sort out his differences with Kato.”