Special Phillip Hughes memorial match comes home

Michael Stennett and Nino Ramunno are keen for the weekend's event where the new pavilion will be christened. Their only concern is the rain which is forecast.
Michael Stennett and Nino Ramunno are keen for the weekend's event where the new pavilion will be christened. Their only concern is the rain which is forecast.

The tragic loss of Phillip Hughes reverberated not just through the Nambucca Valley, but around the entire cricketing universe.

One devastated fan in Sydney, Tim Helyar, and his mates in finance, construction and recruitment were determined to build a tribute to Phillip.

In February 2015, they held the inaugural Phillip Hughes Memorial Cricket Day (PHMCD) at the Bartley Oval at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney.

The day consisted of four sides battling it out in five Twenty20 matches with the victors taking home the glory and the PHMCD Perpetual Trophy.

It was pure poetry that the winning team that first year (and every year since) was made up of current and ex-pat Macksvillians, including Phillip's brother, Jason, and cousin Nino.

"They've even brought in ex Second XI players - but they still can't put a dent in us," Nino Ramunno said.

But the event is and has always been about having fun; you can't get out on the first ball, you get a pass on the first LBW and there's forced retirement at 30 runs, meaning everyone gets a turn on the pitch.

His hometown of Macksville turned it on for Phillip Highes' funeral in 2014.

His hometown of Macksville turned it on for Phillip Highes' funeral in 2014.

Nino is proud to be a part of the event each year, only missing one so far.

"I think it's fantastic that people who weren't friends or family of Phillip - just followers - have put something like this on," he said.

"Over the years the PHMCD has raised and donated over $30,000 to charity and takes time to remember the little left-handed opener from Macksville."

This month marks the fifth annual event, and with the Phillip Hughes Oval's gleaming new pavilion and white picket fence ready to show off to the world, the organisers decided it was time for the event to come home.

Just a section of the mourners at the Macksville funeral in 2014.

Just a section of the mourners at the Macksville funeral in 2014.

"I think its exciting - it's one of those days everyone looks forward to and wants to be at. I just hope the weather holds out," Nambucca Valley Cricket Association's Michael Stennett said.

Players from Brisbane and Sydney will descend on the Valley for Saturday's event.

Two teams from the Nambucca will be fielded, with those who helped out on the oval's renovations getting first dibs to play.

A special invitation was also sent to the committee which oversaw the laying of the turf wicket back in the 90s.

The first ball will be bowled at 8.30am, with the final match starting from 5.30pm. A presentation will follow at 7.30pm.

There'll also be junior and senior cricket kits raffled on the day, and a Boutique Brewing Company - Gage Brewing - will be supplying beers and ciders at the event.

"Given the devastation that has been caused by recent bushfires, this year's event will be supporting the RFS with all proceeds donated in full," Nino said.

We welcome any supporters and spectators to come and enjoy a very social atmosphere and watch some very ordinary middle-age cricketers play some cricket.

If all goes well this year, there are already plans afoot - along with potential sponsors - to expand the event next year.

"We're hoping to make it bigger and better," Michael said.

This story Special Phillip Hughes memorial match comes home first appeared on Guardian News.