“Cuddly” Ponting crowns a grand night

You might have guessed if you didn’t know already, that “a kick up the backside” was part of Ricky Ponting’s motivational toolkit.

But who before Tuesday evening knew Australia’s most successful Test captain gained the best from some teammates with cuddles?

“Why is everyone laughing?” the renowned hard nut asked the 475 guests at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the Chappell Foundation’s 3rd Annual Dinner last Tuesday. 

“There are softer characters in life,” he told Tracey Holmes, TCF Ambassador and the MC for the night. 

“Some people are tougher, harder characters and others need a pat on the back and a cuddle,” he said during the remarkably frank, insightful conversation.

“I think that’s a really big thing and probably more so now in modern sport.”

Ricky’s insights on leadership, motivation, and communication crowned a grand evening for guests who again gave magnificently to support homeless young people.

The dinner netted about $400,000, an event record for the Foundation, after a dreadful summer that had already called heavily on Australians’ generosity.

As a result, TCF will shortly distribute at least $500,000 among its frontline partners in the struggle with homelessness (see below for detail).

Ricky, shirking no issue, from his own early indiscretions to the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, revealed he “probably should have retired” from Tests years earlier than 2012. 

But with the departure of so many other “golden era” teammates – Langer, Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne, Gillespie – he feared leaving younger Test players adrift.

“There would be a bit of a void left of experienced players to be able to say ‘no’, basically.

“If I look at where things got (to) in Cape Town I just don’t think there were enough people around that team to say ‘no’ to some of those guys and things got completely out of hand.”

We also heard stirring, heartfelt words from youngsters the charities have guided to rewarding lives: Amy from Stepping Stone House and Jack from BackTrack Youth Works.

We had some Ponting-style motivation to do even better in the year ahead from BackTrack founder and CEO Bernie Shakeshaft, this year’s Australia Day Local Hero.

“You guys are the real heroes,” TCF Chairman Darshak Mehta OAM told charity leaders, “We are merely raising the money. You are changing lives.”

BackTrack’s chairman Greg Paramor AO came along, while Stepping Stone House was represented by CEO Jason Juretic, chairman Simon Bird and founder Max Connery OAM.

We honoured an original, staunch and generous Foundation supporter, co-founder and PatronGreg Chappell MBE presenting John McMurtrie with an inscribed bat signed by the three Chappell brothers.  

Ian and Trevor Chappell were on hand for the presentation, as were TCF Ambassador Louise Sauvage OAM and Patron Basil Sellers AM.

Another bat, similarly inscribed, awaits John Singleton AM’s return from overseas.

In that Patron’s absence, Darshak revealed how “Singo” quietly scrawled “$1 million” on his live auction pledge form at the 2019 dinner.

This year’s live auction, under the expert gavel of Damien Cooley, raised $102,000 on a show of hands, plus more from guests who filled in forms.

Then, another act of improbable generosity: a matching $102,000 donation by a couple who have asked to remain unnamed.

Ponting commented: “Some of the things I’ve heard tonight already and everyone that’s here tonight needs to be congratulated on what they’re achieving.”

Darshak thanked SCG Trust CEO Kerrie Mather and ground staff, who pulled out all stops so guests could walk the hallowed turf pre-dinner, after four days of torrential rains.

The Trust also opened the Australian dressing rooms to Platinum guests, guided by Test captains Ricky, Ian, and Greg.

Ricky said the Annual Dinner exemplified “the power of the cricket family …We look out for each other, we want to be able to help out and give back”.

The cricket family  – and the sporting family generally – were well represented: Cricket NSW CEO and former Kiwi captain Lee Germon; former NSW and Test bowler Trent Copeland and wife Kimberlee Green, an Australian netball great; Women’s Cricket World Cup-winning twins Alex and Kate Blackwell; writer Peter FitzSimmons, a former Wallabies second-rower; NSW selector Greg Mail, a former prolific batsman; and former Tasmanian state batsman Steve Cazzulino.

The Chappell Foundation sincerely thanks our sponsors and the organisations and individuals who volunteered their services and goods for the 3rd Annual Dinner.

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