Hayden?s heavenly help
By STEVE SPINKS
WHEN you're an elite sportsman, it never hurts to have help from above.
Just ask Australian cricket star Matthew Hayden.
Since he was an aspiring young cricketer at Ashgrove Marist College in Brisbane, Hayden has had a religious ally in his corner ? Marist Father Tom Maloney.
Fr Tom, who has been the chaplain at St Vincent's Hospital in Lismore for the past 17 years, has been a mentor to Hayden since he coached the Australian opener at Ashgrove in 1986.
He has kept in regular touch with Hayden and his family ever since.
"He was in my team," Fr Tom admitted.
"I coached the Second XI and I realised his potential at an early age.
"I kept trying to tell the bloke who coached the First XI to put him in the firsts.
"I tried for the whole season, but in the end he was probably better off as he became a mainstay of the team and did remarkably well."
Hayden finally broke into the firsts in Year 12 in 1987.
Fr Tom also managed a cricket team that included former Australian rugby union captain John Eales and has no doubt the second-rower could have been an outstanding cricketer.
Fr Tom was invited back to Ashgrove late last year for the opening of the new cricket scoreboard ? the Matthew Hayden Scoreboard.
After a lean summer with the bat, it was announced on Tuesday that Hayden would be rested from the first two one-day internationals of the year because he is fatigued.
Selectors are hoping a week off freshens the left-hander up so he can return to his record-beating ways.
"He looks burnt out," Fr Tom said.
"He has so much to concentrate on, like his new cookery book and all his sponsorship commitments."
There was a rumour around Lismore cricket circles that Hayden phones Fr Tom to receive a blessing every year.
"I hear that all the time," the 83-year-old said.
"It's an exaggeration.
"He's already blessed."