David Hookes on the day he was appointed Victorian coach in 2002. Photo: Joe Armao
Beneficiaries of David Hookes' coaching career at Victoria, tragically cut short, argue that he could have had the same positive effect on the Australian team his protege Darren Lehmann is having a decade later.
Lehmann, who was a teammate of Hookes' from 17 and credits him as having had a major professional and personal influence on him, said his fellow South Australian "probably could have coached Australia".
"He was pretty forward-thinking . . . and he knew the game inside-out," Lehmann said.
As of Sunday it will be 10 years since Hookes died at 48, after an altercation with a bouncer outside a Melbourne hotel.
In mid-2002 the South Australian took the helm of a Victorian team that had not won the Sheffield Shield in 11 years. In his 21 months in the position the Bushrangers rose to, at the time of his death, top of the shield and second in the one-day competition. They went on to win the shield two months later, unbeaten for the season.
Hookes' assistant – and eventual successor – Greg Shipperd said that had Hookes not been killed he "could well have been the Darren Lehmann of his time".
Veteran Cricket Victoria cricket chief Shaun Graf said his motivation for pursuing Hookes to be coach, despite the outspoken Hookes' insistence on maintaining his high-profile media career, was because he was "someone who both knew the game of cricket and was a mentor of men".
"He didn't have to technically be the best coach . . . but cricket smarts – and he had that in buckets. He learnt that from Ian Chappell, he gave that to 'Boof' [Lehmann] – and Boof is a carbon copy of Hookes," Graf recalled. "I've got no doubt if he had've been around he would've gone to that next level, with Australia."
One of Hookes' most significant decisions was to appoint Cameron White as the team's one-day captain at 20, which made him easily the youngest captain in any format in domestic history. White has played under Hookes and Lehmann – the latter at now-defunct Indian Premier League team Deccan, well before his elevation to Australia's head coach last June.
White, now 30, said that playing under Lehmann reminded him of his 21 months under Hookes.
"He [Hookes] was pretty good tactically but the thing I really enjoyed about his coaching – and this is where he and Boof are really similar – was his ability to give you confidence to go out and play your way," White said. "He really just backed you to go out and play. If you wanted to take them on you could."
While Hookes was a captain of SA who went on to coach Victoria, the leader of the 2003-04 Bushrangers, Darren Berry, has since done the opposite. He endorsed the comparison between Hookes and Lehmann.
"There's no doubt there's a lot of Hookes in Boof . . . prepared to take a risk, back people, sometimes left-field," Berry said.
Lehmann said he relished the time spent playing under Hookes at SA, and that by the end of his career their already-strong relationship had strengthened significantly.
"Playing with him, it was always 'Hookesy' and 'Skip', but as we got older and he became more of a mentor to me, as a person and a player, it became David," he said, citing the change as a "measure of the respect I held him in".
Asked what he learnt from Hookes, Lehmann replied: "I suppose that aggressive style and always making sure you're trying to move the game forward, whether you're a player, captain or coach . . . that you can win from any situation."
TOMORROW IN THE SUNDAY AGE:
Victoria's Hookes-led revival.