Greg Chappell fights youth homelessness with SCG sleep out

Greg Chappell watches over Australia U-19s Getty Images

A host of Australia's best-known athletes have joined Greg Chappell in his effort to raise funds for and understanding about youth homelessness in an SCG "sleep out" on Sunday night.

Chappell will be joined in sleeping rough for the night by brother Trevor Chappell, cricketers Mitchell Starc, Steve O'Keefe, Alyssa Healy, Lisa Sthalekar and Moises Henriques, rugby union luminaries Nick Farr-Jones, Phil Waugh and David Campese, rugby league stalwart Steve Mortimer, Olympic beach volleyball medallist Kerri Pottharst, and Michelle Heyman from the Australian women's football team.

It was during his time living in Melbourne and walking through the Fitzroy Gardens on early mornings that Chappell first began to take an interest in the plight of the many thousands of homeless in Australia, estimated to be in excess of 116,000, with more than 40% of them aged under 25. Having served as Cricket Australia's national talent manager since 2010 and been a part of the national selection panel in three separate stints dating back to the 1980s, Chappell likened the issue to a "talent drain" in terms of broken lives.

"The fundraising is an important part of it, but the other part that I think is equally important is just to make this more widely known," Chappell told Macquarie Sports Radio. "When I first heard about it, I was staggered there were so many Australians homeless and so many of them are under 25 years of age, and that's a hell of a drain on society if nothing else.

"There's a lot of talent there that's going, if not to waste, it's underperforming and I have no doubt there are people out there who are very talented that maybe haven't had a lot of opportunities, the sorts of opportunities that I've had and we've had, that given a second chance might really contribute to society and hopefully break a cycle.

"I just hope that we can make a difference, get people talking about it and doing something about it. Obviously, one way is to donate some funds, but the other thing is to put pressure on governments at all levels. We don't expect them to necessarily stump up with the money all the time, but if they can create the environment with more social housing and create the opportunity for people to invest in social housing for those who haven't got somewhere to live, I think it would go a long way towards reducing the numbers drastically."

The concept of a sleep out was first suggested by Sthalekhar, a board member of the Chappell Foundation, which has raised more than AUD 400,000 to fight youth homelessness since its inception in 2017. "We were looking at what sort of events we might get involved in," Chappell said. "We'd already had a golf day late last year, we had an annual dinner coming up earlier this year at which Shane Warne was our special guest and the board met and discussed some other fundraising ideas and Lisa came up with this one."

Now one of only three selectors after Mark Waugh resigned from his post and not replaced, Chappell said the wider network of state talent managers and coaches would be used more extensively and consistently than in the past to make sure Australia's best cricketers were being identified quickly and chosen shrewdly.

"We've got a system that is quite broad and quite deep, of talented people who work within the cricket business in Australia and the more eyes and ears that are out there watching young talent and looking for young talent the better it is," Chappell said. "We've had our talent manager network in place for eight years or so now, and I think the states do a terrific job in identifying the best talent within their boundaries and then it's just a matter of making sure we've got the system in place to offer them the development opportunities, which particularly implies playing games, because the only way to really develop is to play a lot of cricket matches.

"So I think we've got a very good pathway for both male and female cricketers in this country. We've got talent managers involved, the state coaches involved in identifying who our best current cricketers are, but also keeping an eye on who the next best group is going to be, because if we're not looking to the future, we could all of a sudden find that we've ended an era without really keeping an eye on what's coming through."

Ahead of the Australia A tour of India and then the Test tour of the UAE, Chappell said the panel was not pushing for specific performance targets as they continued to wrestle with the forced absences of Steven Smith and David Warner after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.

"We expect to win every game we play, but obviously that's unrealistic, you don't win every game. But the important thing is that we're competitive at all times and we are giving development opportunities," Chapell said. "Australia A is a development opportunity for a bunch of young cricketers, some who've already played some Test cricket but a lot of them who are hoping to play international cricket in the future. To be able to spend a month in India playing against a couple of Indian teams in India A and India B, and South Africa A is a wonderful opportunity both from different conditions, but also at a slightly higher level than first-class cricket in Australia.

"We don't have any solid expectations in terms of this or that, it really is continuing that development process, and the players who are good enough, they'll identify themselves."

Donations link here: https://www.thechappellfoundation.com/donate