Steve Waugh takes strike for a brave innings
Daniel Lane Contributor Exclusive for Sportsta on Steve Waughs most important innings.
On the final day of The Captains Ride 2016 the riders head for Mt Kosciusko. Sportsta here focuses on the reasons the ride exists and the origins from where it came. The cause for children with Rare Diseases that Steve and his wife Lynette support with their work in the Steve Waugh Foundation.
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Steve Waugh could easily be preparing to sit in an air-conditioned press box to commentate on the Australia-South Africa series; he could be a lucratively-paid coach/consultant for an international cricket team or serving as a national Test selector.
He’s instead slogging his way, alongside his team of 70 cyclists, through a gruelling six-day, 701km ride from Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands to the Snowy Mountains to raise funds for the Steve Waugh Foundation, a charity that’s established itself over the last decade as the last port of call for parents with children who are suffering from rare diseases yet they’re not entitled to any support from the government or Australia’s medical system.
These children are known as “the orphans” of the health system because they’re all alone.
However, Waugh, who says meeting Mother Teresa during a tour of India in 1996 inspired him to do what he can to help make the world a better place, has been going into bat for these precious few over the last decade. His efforts as a Saint of Desperate causes easily outweighs his most inspiring feats as a cricketer.
The stories of how the now 51-year-old and his wife Lynette have helped children with wicked diseases that could easily pass as tongue twisters paint a different picture of the man once described by sports scribes as the ‘Iceman’ of cricket.
“There’s no support mechanism for these children,” he said, before saying aloud that having 300,000 Australian children stricken by rare diseases ought to mean they’re not so rare.
While Waugh has dedicated his heart and soul to his Foundation’s cause he revealed his preparation for this year’s Captain’s Ride was the hardest he’s ever trained.
“I thought I trained reasonably hard throughout my cricket career but for this bike ride, it’s the most dedicated I’ve ever been,” he said. “I trained six days a week, woke at 5.30 in the morning to train but I welcomed the challenge.
“When I did this ride last year I was proud to think that I’d achieved something that I didn’t think I could [finishing such a tough journey as a novice cyclist].
“You do ask yourself ‘will I make this ride?’ but the one thing I do know is I’ll give it 100 percent.
“Last year we made it through as a team, the spirit of that ride was extraordinary – very special – and I know we’ll be talking about it in 30-years time because we recognised when someone was struggling and we helped them along.
“We’re pushing ourselves to help the kids ... we’re riding for kids whose lives can be changed ... and I found if you need to ask questions of yourself while you’re riding up a hill you ask ‘what their life is like EVERY day’.
“All I ask of the riders is ‘no excuses, give 100 percent and let’s make it happen.”
It’s exactly the same edict Waugh issued to his players as their skipper. Indeed, there’s a story which sums up the determination that drove him to become one of Australia’s most respected leaders and it occurred during a Sheffield Shield match when his NSW Blues were in deep trouble against Queensland.
The mood in the ‘Blues’ dressing room was grim as they prepared for the latter stages of a match Queensland appeared to be on course to win by a crushing margin.
The deafening silence in the room was broken when Waugh finally rose to his feet.
“If you don’t think we can win, don’t follow me out that door,” he growled through gritted teeth.
To a man the Blues followed his lead and eventually turned the tide of the game to record a stunning victory.
Now, 12-years into his retirement from first-class cricket, there’s many people who suggest Waugh is channelling that same level of energy into helping children with one-in-a-million diseases.
Some parents have been reduced to tears as they reveal the impact Waugh’s Foundation has had on their family, others such as Brendon Wingrave express a deep and sincere gratitude.
“For us, it’s been a huge help financially to get our daughter some speech therapy,” said the father of a 12-year-old girl named Sarah. “And that helps because we don’t fit in the systems, we don’t fit in the boxes you can tick off on forms.
“And that is frustrating ... when you don’t fit into the system. The problem is we are a small number of people and while we’re significantly affected by something we are quite a small voice.”
According to Mr Wingrave, the cricketer he once admired from afar, has proven to be a life-changer.
“With Steve, it’s obvious his wanting to help the children is a real passion, it isn’t something he does on the side. He’s interested, he listens and he takes time to get to know the kids ... it is all genuine.”
Waugh’s wife, Lynette revealed her heartbreak of listening to parents who’ve been pushed to breaking point.
“You hear parents say ‘I just wish it was cancer because they’d be entitled to help,’” she said. “There’s a definite frustration. They WANT to be acknowledged, they NEED to be acknowledged and we find they feel a sense of relief when you take the listen to their stories; it’s important for them to know they’re being heard.
“We’re happy to help . . .these kids found us. When Steve retired from cricket we wanted to help children and in the two years that followed his retirement we saw children with illnesses we’d never heard of and we asked one another, ‘what’s the story with these kids?’
A decade later the latest chapter of that story has Waugh pedalling with 70 volunteers – including such sporting luminaries as British Olympic legend Daley Thompson and the queen of Aussie cycling Anna Meares – who’ve set themselves the target of raising $700,000 to give the orphans of our nation’s health system a fighting chance.
It could quite easily be the most important innings the great Steve Waugh has ever fought.
For more information or to support the Captain's Ride visit captainsride.com.au.
Photo supplied by the Steve Waugh Foundation.
- Daniel Lane, exclusively for Sportsta.