Before Sydney Thunder paceman Dirk Nannes and Melbourne Renegades coach Simon Helmot duelled on Tuesday night at Etihad Stadium, they united for the ailing son of a former clubmate.
Victorian Premier Cricket stalwart David Shepard, a swing bowler who made a solitary appearance for Victoria in 1998-99, played underneath Helmot at Hawthorn and beside Nannes, who at that stage was a dedicated skier who would squeeze in cricket matches when his schedule allowed.
Both have kept in regular contact with Shepard since that time. In recent years a key plank of discussion has been the plight of Louis, the three-year-old son of Shepard and his wife Emily.
Since Louis was born in 2010, his hearing progressively worsened. The trigger for that – he is now profoundly deaf – was last year diagnosed as Usher Syndrome, an as-yet incurable condition that progressively robs those afflicted with it of their sight.
Nannes, a fast-bowler still highly sought after in Twenty20 despite being 37, stressed Shepard was a good friend of his and "not just some bloke I played with once".
As a novice club cricketer with pace but "no idea where they were going", Nannes said Shepard had been an important influence on him, particularly as he was a early exponent of reverse swing.
"He taught me a lot of cricket smarts. We're very different bowlers, but he was very good in terms of cricket education for me, because I turned up not knowing a thing," Nannes said.
Renegades coach Helmot, a long-time coach of Nannes until the past two years, concurred that Shepard had helped Nannes make a rise so stunning he played not only in a Sheffield Shield final victory for Victoria but also for Australia in Twenty20.
"We knew he (Nannes) had raw talent, but he was sharing himself between skiing and cricket. He was always pretty sharp," Helmot said. "No doubt [Shepard had influence on Nannes]. I think we all have. He was there to support and assist Dirk during his [cricketing] infancy."
Helmot said he was keen to be involved in the campaign to help Louis ever since he "understood the magnitude of the situation", which is why he presented Louis with a Renegades jersey before its home match on Tuesday night.
"It's a great opportunity . . . hopefully we can support the charity going forward."
Nannes said Louis' situation had reinforced to him how lucky he and wife Erin were to have three healthy children.
"Whenever you hear a story of someone else and their kid, you think about how it applies to yours," he said.
"We actually talk a lot about it, Erin and I, about his plight. I'd like to help more than just him, but it's a pretty good catalyst, that it's a mate's kid.
"He's just a happy young kid. You'd never know there was much wrong. He behaves like everyone else because he doesn't see himself as being any different."
Louis' parents have begun a foundation to raise money for their son, preferably for research but also to fund "memorable experiences" for him should a cure not be found before he loses his sight.
The Louis Looking Forward Foundation is holding a major fundraising dinner at the MCG on Saturday March 1, to be hosted by Channel Ten sports presenter Mark Howard, a former Hawthorn cricketer, and to feature comedian Wil Anderson. The foundation is hoping not only that people will buy tickets to attend but would also be grateful for items to be donated for an auction to be held on that night.
Tickets can be bought and more more information sought from www.louislookingforward.com.