The first day of the coronial inquest into Phillip Hughes' death has opened with investigations over the nature of play, as a number of cricketers take the stand.
Former New South Wales cricket captain Brad Haddin denied claims he instructed his team to bowl more short balls at Hughes.
Former Test fast bowler Doug Bollinger has also denied saying "I'm going to kill you" to Hughes on the day the batsman was struck by a cricket ball in the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and South Australia.
The coronial inquest into the death of Phillip Hughes is investigating whether "the NSW team may have been bowling short at Phillip Hughes in an attempt to restrict the run rate and get him out".
It will also examine whether the umpire "should have taken steps" to curb the number of short-pitched deliveries.
The inquest started on Monday morning, and heard that the 25-year-old's death appeared "inevitable" from the moment a cricket ball travelling at 150km/h struck Hughes on the neck.
Hughes's sister Megan and father Greg briefly left the NSW Coroner's Court in Sydney on Monday as footage was aired of the fateful ball delivered at 2.23pm on November 25, 2014, although his brother Jason and mother Virginia remained in court.
According to Fairfax, Detective Senior Constable Jay Tonkin told the court on Monday morning he was made aware of claims Bollinger said "I'm going to kill you" in the direction of Hughes and fellow batsman Tom Cooper.
Tonkin said he was informed by Hughes' brother, Jason, about the comment. The court was told Jason Hughes heard about the comment two days after the cricketer was struck.
"I know in my heart I didn't say that," Bollinger told the inquest.
"I don't remember saying anything like that to anyone. I know I didn't sledge Phil."
Cricketer David Warner provided a written statement to the court -- along with Bollinger and Haddin -- saying he has no recollection of comments to Hughes on the field.
However, Warner -- who will appear via videolink from South Africa during the inquest -- said "the team had developed a plan of how to get Phil out."
"Basically it was to bowl at or over leg stump and get Phil moving backwards instead of forwards."
Haddin said there was no discussion with any of the NSW players about bowling more short balls.
As the inquest started at 10 am on Monday morning, it was immediately made clear that this will be an attempt to determine the causes of the injury that caused the death of the young cricketer who played 26 Tests for Australia, and to make cricket safer. It does not have even the remotest whiff of a witch hunt.
After both Hughes' former manager James Henderson and Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland urged everybody to respect the family's privacy, NSW State Coroner Michael Barnes opened formal proceedings expressing sorrow for Hughes' family, saying:
"The essential details of the sad death of Phillip Hughes were apparent soon after it occurred... "The inquest is being convened to explore whether it could have been avoided."
"These inquiries are not undertaken to lay blame," Mr Barnes said. "Quite clearly the death was a terrible accident but that doesn't mean cricket can't be made safer.
The issues to be covered by the inquest were then outlined. They include:
- Determining the cause of Hughes' death.
- Determining the "nature of the play" on the day the incident occurred, and whether that in any way exacerbated the risk of injury.
- The appropriateness of the emergency response, including the time of response and the conveying of information to emergency services.
- Whether or not any protective helmet or equipment would have prevented or minimised the risk of death.
- General recommendations going forward for protective helmets and other equipment.
"We never want to see a tragedy like this happen again on the cricket field, and to that end we have the utmost respect for the Coronial Inquest and the process we all need to go through this week," Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland said.
"As you would appreciate this is going to be a very, very, very difficult week for Greg, Virginia, Jason and Megan," Hughes' manger James Henderson said.
"They haven't been looking forward to this week as you would imagine, and they're hoping that perhaps there will be a positive to come out of Phillip's death as we go through this next five days inside the Coroner's Court.
"We won't be making any further statements until the inquest is finished and the Coroner's findings are handed down."
More to come.