Australian cricket coach Justin Langer gives fan Bill Dean, 80, a cap at training.
Australian cricket coach Justin Langer gives fan Bill Dean, 80, a cap at training.

SCG crowd to pay tribute to firefighters

SCG patrons will offer a minute's applause to firefighters before the first Test starts on Friday and players will wear black armbands to honour the brave victims.

Australia coach Justin Langer came face-to-face with the human toll of the bushfire tragedy on Wednesday.

Langer said for the first time in his career he would have no qualms about rain interrupting a Test match, because NSW needed it more than the Australian team needed to win a game of cricket.

Earlier at the Australian net session, Langer had been moved by an emotional encounter with 80-year-old Bill Dean, an emphysema sufferer who hails from Lithgow, one of the many country NSW towns ravaged by the fires.

Langer spotted Dean sitting in his wheelchair at the entry to the nets and walked over to gift him his Australian cap.

It was a simple gesture that meant plenty.

In recent weeks there has been the stress for Dean of his son almost losing his Lithgow property, when flames came within 30m of the back door, not to mention the impact of the suffocating inferno on his long health battle.

It had been 20 years since Dean's last visit to the SCG, and a decision by his son and grandson to drive him up to Sydney for a day to reconnect with one of his great passions produced a meeting with Langer that neither cricket coach or lifetime fan will forget.

"He hasn't stopped talking about it since," said grandson Sam.

"It made his day, but probably made his year, to be honest. It really did.

"At first when Alfie (Langer) was walking over we thought, 'is he going to ask us to move or something?' He (Dean) was really pleasantly surprised.

"Without going into too many details it's been a pretty long couple of years (with the emphysema) … watching Langer over the years, he's got a lot of good memories. It was pretty special for him to meet him.

Steve Smith bats in the nets at the SCG ahead of Friday’s Test. Picture: Brett Costello
Steve Smith bats in the nets at the SCG ahead of Friday’s Test. Picture: Brett Costello

"With the fires it's been pretty crap (for his health). Not the best.

"Bill lives in town, so wasn't directly affected by the fires itself, but for my parents it was about 30 yards from their back fence. It got pretty close.

"This year we thought might be good to bring my grandfather down because he hasn't been to the cricket ground for a long time and he used to come a lot. He'd bring Dad down when he was a kid. They're both cricket tragics, we all are."

On Friday morning the SCG crowd will stand to honour the men and women who have risked their lives to save the lives and homes of people like the Dean family in Lithgow - with a minute-long round of applause for firefighters that will reverberate around a packed cricket ground.

Langer was just as moved by his interaction with Bill Dean.

Australian coach Justin Langer (right) with chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns at the SCG on Wednesday. Picture: Brett Costello
Australian coach Justin Langer (right) with chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns at the SCG on Wednesday. Picture: Brett Costello

"That's one of the privileges of the job, you can put smiles on people's faces," he said.

"I thought he'd appreciate an Australian training cap on his head, it looks like he's going through a bit of a tough time. He told me his son's house nearly got burned down the last couple of days."

There remain doubts over the threat the smoke haze over Sydney may pose to the Test match going ahead uninterrupted. But Langer said for once, players weren't fretting over conditions.

"It will be the first time I'll ever say this in my life, I hope it rains a bit during the Test, because Sydney needs it," he said.

"I hope it rains at night so we can keeping playing, but Sydney, like lots of Australia, needs the rain.

"Our hearts go out. We are so privileged with what we do. We are feeling for the Australians out there who are suffering. It's a really tough time, all we can do is out a smile on their face by playing some good cricket."

Australia's three one-day matches against New Zealand coming up in March will also double as dedicated fundraisers for the Red Cross bushfire appeal.

Signed playing gear from the Boxing Day Test will also be auctioned off for victims of the fires.

Stream the AUS v NZ Domain Test Series LIVE & Ad-Break Free During Play on KAYO with FOX CRICKET's unmatched commentary line-up. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

News Corp Australia


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