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Wed Apr 23 19:29:11 SAST 2014

Big Merv still larger than life

Liam Del Carme | 26 November, 2011 21:520 Comments
Australian selector Merv Hughes prepares to throw a toy during nets at Edgbaston ahead of the third Ashes test match on July 28, 2009 in Birmingham, England
Image by: Hamish Blair / Getty Images

MAKING the transition from one of test cricket's most forceful combatants to the sport's afterlife is a matter former Aussie paceman Merv Hughes has treated with the disdain he used to reserve for those who Chinese cut him for four.

"I don't think I've ever slipped back into normal life," the still barrel-chested Hughes insisted.

"It's been 17 years since I've played (test cricket) and all the work I do now involves promotions, public relations and tour groups.

"In the past 10 years I've been doing tour groups to wherever the Australian team plays test cricket and the World Cup."

However, not all his daily activity is that close to the action. "I work for a company called OneSteel and tour the country doing customer functions for them."

The instantly recognisable Hughes still sports his chopper handlebar 'tache, although the grey around the temples and trendy spectacles give him a more distinguished look. It removes him by some distance from the semi-pot-bellied bruiser whose next delivery always seemed to carry greater peril.

Hughes has retained the larger-than-life characteristics that made him a crowd magnet.

A menacing bowler in his playing days, Hughes now bats for a just cause. "I'm also an ambassador for Andrology Australia. 'More balls than most' is an initiative that raises prostate cancer awareness.

"Andrology is the study of the male reproductive system and the danger of prostate cancer, testicular and penile problems. I've been doing that for about six years.

"I've also been working with a company that manufactures safety boots for mining and a company that promotes rope. So it all ties in," he explained with a straight face.

South Africans will remember Hughes for swinging his bat at an abusive fan at the Wanderers.

"In hindsight, Cricket Australia should have vindicated my behaviour and returned the four thousand dollar fine.

"There was obviously a problem with the architecture to have very passionate people who had probably had too many beers getting very close to players and offering opinions when players probably didn't need to be given them.

"Some people said I tried to hit that bloke with a cricket bat. Some people call it a cricket bat, I call it an attitude enhancer."

His downtime is mostly spent outdoors.

"I play very bad golf and I love fishing. We've been fishing in the Barra Classic every year.

"I can honestly say I haven't mastered it yet.

"At home in Victoria, I get up on the lake and go for yellowbelly, murray cod, which grow to about 1m-1.2m. Not that I've ever caught a fish that size.

"In Port Phillip Bay, I go after snapper, bream, flathead. I enjoy fishing with people who know what they are doing as opposed to blokes who are still learning."

He turned 50 four days ago and he advances his years with the same glee he used to charge into the crease. "Getting older beats the alternative. I've got a barbecue organised for Sunday.

"I'll have a couple of mates around, close friends. We'll have a few steaks and a few beers."

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