Flying visit for a Lismore legend

CATCHING UP: Echo reporter Jennie Dell gets up close and personal with former Test cricketer Adam Gilchrist.
CATCHING UP: Echo reporter Jennie Dell gets up close and personal with former Test cricketer Adam Gilchrist.

ADAM Gilchrist and I - we go way back.

All the way back to 1985, in fact, when he was a Lismore schoolboy cricketer and I was a reporter with NRTV News.

At the end of that interview I asked him, on camera, what he would like to do when he left school.

"I'd like to play cricket for Australia," he politely replied.

It's well known that he went on to do just that. His cricketing achievements are illustrious.

Adam retired from professional cricket in 2008, considered to be one of the greatest wicket keeper-batsmen in the history of the game. So it was great to catch up last Friday when Adam was on a flying visit back to Lismore, where he spent his high school years.

He was visiting in fulfilment of two of his many post-cricket public roles: as ambassador for Castrol Oil, and as patron of the Northern NSW branch of Lord's Taverners - an organisation that raises money to give young people, particularly those with special needs, the opportunity to participate in sport and recreation.

"I'm very fortunate to have tremendous opportunities and options in my life now," Adam told me.

"The future can be very uncertain for some sportspeople who have dedicated many years to their sport, and wonder what they're going to do afterwards."

Adam and his family now live in Western Australia, where he's the director of a forestry business.

"We grow Indian sandalwood," he said.

"I'm also the chair of the National Australia Day Council."

"Who's going to be Australian of the Year next year?" I asked him. "I hear there have been a lot of nominations for Julian Assange."

"There have been a few, but it might be a bit difficult for us to get him back here to receive it," Adam laughed.

Adam is also the patron of Ronald McDonald House, which is attached to many major hospitals and provides accommodation for families with sick children.

In that role, he had a gentle talk with Lismore's Castrol-sponsored racing driver, Mark Robinson, whose two-year-old daughter Allie was diagnosed with leukaemia late last year, just before Mark was to drive in the Australian Championships. Getting there was hard, but Mark won the championship.

Adam packed lots of appearances into his brief visit: a fundraising breakfast with the Lord's Taverners; photo opportunities with Mark Robinson's racing car and at Mark's father Stan's Southside Trucks business in South Lismore (during which Adam played a bit of cricket with some local kids) and a dinner sponsored by Castrol Oil, with ambassador Adam as guest speaker.

Having married his childhood sweetheart Melinda, Adam now lives in Perth. They have four children, of whom Harry, the eldest, is a "pretty good" cricket player.

"Harry, Annie and Archie are into all things sporting, dancing and musical," he said. "And Ted's only 10 months old."

Adam's parents, Stan and June, still live in Lismore. After completing his duties in Lismore at the weekend, Adam flew down to Sydney to celebrate June's 70th birthday with the extended family.

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