THE smiles returned in abundance to a sun-soaked Tyabb Reserve on Sunday as more than 4000 visitors gathered for a celebrity Twenty20 cricket game in honour of Luke Batty.
Dozens of celebrities and sports stars took to the field for the match, with Australian cricketer Matthew Wade proving the biggest hit of the day as he belted sixes into the enthusiastic crowd.
The star-studded celebrity team lists included cricketers Wade, Bryce McGain, Peter Handscomb, Scott Boland and Cassie Brock, AFL footballers Michael Hurley, Michael Hibberd and Arryn Siposs, actors Gary Sweet and Rhys Muldoon, and television personalities Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann and Brett McLeod.
There were plenty more well-known faces in the crowd lending their support to the cause, with organisers declaring the day “a stunning success”.
No one was more pleased with the overwhelming show of support than Luke’s mother Rosie Batty, who stayed for the duration of the event and thanked guests for making the day so special for Tyabb Cricket Club and broader community.
Ms Batty said her cricket-loving son, who played as a junior with the Tyabb club, would have been “chuffed” and that the match would help the healing process for his friends and teammates.
“The timing of this event is really important for his classmates, his teammates, and people who have been really saddened,” she said.
“This is a healing opportunity to bond.”
Luke, 11, was killed by his father Greg Anderson at the ground on 12 February following a regular weekly cricket training session. Anderson was fatally shot by police following the incident.
Tyabb Cricket Club president Sam Taranto said the event had been more successful than organisers ever could have hoped, with the crowd of 4000-4500 more than double the number expected.
He said the match had been organised as a celebration of Luke’s life and “to put some smiles back on faces” following the tragedy.
The event had been “a bit of a case of ‘if we build it, they will come’ because we really didn’t know what sort of response we were going to get,” Mr Taranto said of the organising process.
“But they certainly did come and it was a fantastic day, beyond our greatest hopes.”
While the main purpose of the event was to “bring some happiness back to the community”, with children admitted free of charge and adult entry only $5, funds raised would be used to help cover the cost of rebuilding the ground’s cricket nets, which were taken down following Luke’s murder, Mr Taranto said.
Fundraising efforts for the new nets, which are estimated to cost about $180,000, received a welcome boost from the Commonwealth Bank, which donated $10,000 as well as a $20,000 contribution from the state government.