ICC World Cup: 11 years after Hookes' death, pall of gloom still hangs around Melbourne street
11 years after former Australian player's death, eerie gloom lingers around the erstwhile Beaconsfield Hotel & Pub where the Aussie cricketer lost his life after an altercation with a bouncer
Melbourne: The first impressions of the Italianate façade at 341, Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda is that of dull, gloom thanks to its dark-grey paint. The fact that this pall of gloom at the erstwhile Beaconsfield Hotel & Pub stretches over 10 years is even more eerie.
The erstwhile Beaconsfield Hotel & Pub in St Kilda, Melbourne
On January 19, 2004, former Australian cricketer David Hookes (48), then coach of the Victorian team, died following an altercation the previous night with a bouncer here while he was celebrating a limited overs victory over South Australia with his team.
The bouncer Zdravko Micevic stood trial, but went scot-free as he said that he had punched the former batsman in self defence. However, cricket fans and Melbourne citizens couldn't put behind their painful memories of the venue and the place shut a year later.
Right next door to the infamous venue is Frank's Milk Bar and General Store, run by Anthony Cuzzuppe and Drew Stevenson, two Melbourne residents, who know quite a bit about what happened on January 18, 11 summers back. "Unfortunately, this place is known just for that incident," said Anthony with a smile, as he continued, "The story was huge — all over the newspapers and television.
This restaurant was being run by someone else then but being locals, we knew what had happened next door. This cricketer was punched in the face and hit his head on the road below while being ejected from the pub next door," recalled Anthony, as though it happened just yesterday.
Bearing the brunt
By mid-September 2005, Micevic was found not guilty of manslaughter, but the pub bore the brunt of public ire. "Every now and then, we would hear stories of guests arguing with and abusing the staff and even stoning the Beaconsfield Pub.
The locked gate and tall grey sheets lining the exterior of the infamous pub. Pics/Ashwin Ferro
People were upset that a sportsman's life was taken just like that. After all, Melbourne takes pride in being called the sporting capital of the world. There was complete outrage; protests too," explained Anthony, who lives just down the road.
His colleague Drew reasoned: "Sportsmen are known to cause trouble in these parts because, firstly, they have all the money and secondly, they train so hard for eight to nine months of the year that they tend to enjoy their breaks a bit too much. But mostly it's the rich AFL (Australian Football League) players and not cricketers, who are trouble-makers."
Anthony said that the story gave the tourist spot so much of negative publicity that the government was only too happy to let the place close down. "The owners of the pub are from Perth and they tried everything — from planning to renovate and refurbish the place to even name a part of it after Hookes — but nothing worked.
We heard that the government was adamant that the place should shut and did not renew its license," said Anthony, who hoped such an incident never happened anywhere in the world, and more so, never at his place.
"I hope I never get any trouble like that. We Australians are very friendly people otherwise," he said with a wink as he offered me some freshly brewed hot coffee to go with a perfectly toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich.
On the way out of Frank's Milk Bar, it's still tough to digest the fact an inspirational sporting life was lost due to one cruel moment of rage right next door.
The Beaconsfield Hotel & Pub is locked and covered all around by tall, dark grey sheets to block any inside view. It is now inhabited by an old man and his wife, who work as caretaking cleaners at the property. As hard as they may try though, they will never be able to clean the blood off the ill-fated venue.
David Hookes was a former Australia batsman of the 1970s and 1980s who went on to become a TV commentator and coach of the Victoria team. He was a left-handed batsman, known for his aggression and played in the middle-order. He played 23 Tests and 39 ODIs at an average of 34.36 and 24.29 respectively. The Adelaide-born South Australian, known to his mates as Hookesy, had an impressive first-class average of 43.99.